North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer, one of the senators who saw the transcript, told reporters that there was “nothing in there very interesting.”
Which is in keeping with how Trump has sought to cast that first call, which came months before a July 25 phone call in which Trump pressured Zelensky to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.
On Monday, Trump tweeted this
: “In order to continue being the most Transparent President in history, I will be releasing sometime this week the Transcript of the first, and therefore most important, phone call I had with the President of Ukraine. I am sure you will find it tantalizing!” the following day, Trump was at it again
: “I will be releasing the transcript of the first, and therefore more important, phone call with the Ukrainian President before week’s end!”
But here’s the thing: The April call transcript, while interesting, doesn’t erase
the July call
. Even if the April call was “perfect” (Trump’s preferred adjective to describe the July call), it doesn’t change the fact that four months later the President was back on the phone with Zelensky, doing the following:
1) Reminding him that the US did a lot for Ukraine
2) Noting that Ukraine didn’t reciprocate
3) Asking for Zelensky to look into a conspiracy theory about the location of the hacked Democratic National Committee server
4) Pushing for an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter
5) Offering to put Zelensky in touch with Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General Bill Barr
Trump can say all he wants that the first call in April was the more important of the two calls. But that doesn’t mean it’s true. In fact, we know from testimony from multiple administration officials that activity surrounding the push for the announcement of a Biden investigation ramped up right around time of the second call.
In fact, Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, testified publicly on Wednesday
that an aide told him of a July 26 call between Trump and US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland in which Sondland relayed to the President that the Ukrainians were finally willing to play ball.
And it wasn’t until months after that second call — September 11, to be exact, when the nearly $400 million in US security aid to Ukraine was finally released. Just prior to that release, Sondland told a top deputy to Zelensky that he believed the aid hold-up was directly tied to the lack of an investigation announcement.
All of this to say is that the April call, while interesting, isn’t decisive. Or even close.
Do yourself a favor whenever the April call notes are released. Read them. And then go back and read the July 25 rough transcript
that the White House released of the conversation between Trump and Zelensky. Because one doesn’t cancel out the other.