Executive Branch

Trump urged Ukrainian president to speak with Barr about investigating Biden, transcript shows

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Donald Trump and William Barr

Photos of President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr from Wikimedia Commons.

President Donald Trump urged the president of Ukraine to speak with Attorney General William Barr about investigating the conduct of former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a transcript of a July 25 phone call released on Wednesday.

Trump told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky he would ask Barr and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani to give Zelensky a call, the transcript reveals. The New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico and BuzzFeed News have coverage.

The transcript is not verbatim. Instead it is based on notes and recollections, according to a note with the transcript.

During the call, Trump referred to Biden and his son, Hunter, who became a paid board member with a Ukrainian gas company in 2014. Trump asserted that Biden “went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution” of his son. There has been no public evidence backing that assertion, according to the New York Times.

Trump told Zelensky: “There is a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution, and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”

Trump never spoke with Barr “about having Ukraine investigate anything related to former Vice President Biden or his son,” according to a statement by Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec.

The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that the gas company, Burisma Holdings, paid Hunter Biden about $50,000 a month. The report was based on an unnamed official with ties to the company and was not confirmed by any on-the-record source.

Trump did not refer to $391 million in foreign aid to Ukraine that Trump had placed on hold before the phone call. Trump did say that the United States “has been very, very good to Ukraine,” the Washington Post reports in a separate story.

The money was later released.

According to the New York Times, Trump’s suggestion of direct involvement by American law enforcement “marks the first evidence that the president personally sought to harness the power of the United States government to further a politically motivated investigation.”

The Justice Department’s criminal division reviewed the call transcript for any potential campaign finance violation and determined that hat no further action was warranted, Kupec said. “All relevant components of the department agreed with this legal conclusion, and the department has concluded the matter,” she said.

At issue was whether the call violated campaign finance laws that ban people from soliciting contributions from foreign sources. The Justice Department reviewers concluded that seeking help with a government investigation was not a “thing of value” under the law, a source told the Post.

Kupec stressed that Trump did not speak with Barr about Biden and Ukraine. “The president has not spoken with the attorney general about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son,” Kupec said. “The president has not asked the attorney general to contact Ukraine—on this or any other matter. The attorney general has not communicated with Ukraine—on this or any other subject. Nor has the attorney general discussed this matter, or anything relating to Ukraine, with Rudy Giuliani.”

The Justice Department reviewed the call transcript after intelligence officials referred a whistleblower complaint about the call to the Justice Department as a possible crime, unnamed senior Justice Department officials told the New York Times and the Washington Post.

During the call, Trump also appeared to ask Zelensky to investigate the origins of Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian influence, according to BuzzFeed. Trump referred to CrowdStrike, which was hired to investigate the hack of Democratic emails.

“The whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine,” Trump said. “Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”

Kupec said U.S. Attorney John Durham is leading a Justice Department team that “is separately exploring the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.”

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that the House of Representatives will begin a formal impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump because of concerns about the phone call.

Pelosi said, by the president’s own admission, he had asked Zelensky to take actions that would benefit him politically. Such actions, she said, are a betrayal of the president’s oath of office and the integrity of national elections.

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