‘The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty, so we will take care of that…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Forced by partisan Democrats under threat of impeachment, President Donald Trump on Wednesday released the transcript of a July conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Although it covered delicate discussions on one of the most sensitive geopolitical regions in the world, it offered little indication of the “quid pro quo” hyped by Trump’s political adversaries.
The conversation between the two leaders is one piece of a whistleblower’s complaint, which followed the July 25 call. The complaint is central to the formal impeachment inquiry launched Tuesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Previous reporting from many media sources claimed Trump asked Zelenskiy eight times to reopen a probe into possible corruption involving former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who had been given a paid seat on the board of a top Ukrainian energy company that was under investigation for corruption.
However, Biden’s name appeared only twice in the transcript provided by the White House. The conversation included no mention of a threat from Trump to withhold military aid, as had been alleged.
Trump recently confirmed that he ordered the freezing of nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine a few days before the call, but it was not clear from the summary whether Zelenskiy was aware that Trump had frozen the aid.
Rather, the transcript revealed a deeply cordial and admiring rapport between the two conservative leaders.
“We worked a lot, but I would like to confess to you that I had an opportunity to learn from you,” Zelenskiy told Trump of his party’s success in winning recent parliamentary elections. “We used quite a few of your skills and knowledge and were able to use it as an example for our elections.”
Draining the Ukrainian Swamp
The two leaders discussed concerns over the possible corruption of Ukraine’s prosecutor general.
“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that,” Trump said.
Biden, while representing the U.S. in diplomatic discussions with a previous administration, had threatened to withhold a billion-dollar loan guarantee if prosecutor Viktor Shokin—who was investigating the Burisma energy company that had Biden’s son on the payroll—was not fired.
“Well, son of a b**ch, he got fired,” Biden said in a 2018 panel discussion hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. “And they put in place someone who was solid.”
Shokin was replaced Yuriy Lutsenko, who had little prosecutorial experience but a long history of corrupt and criminal activity.
Zelenskiy assured Trump that the next prosecutor would be free from the pernicious influences of corruption that had plagued his predecessor.
“Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September,” the Ukrainian president said.
Zelenskiy also assured Trump—with little to no solicitation—that the prosecutor intended to resume investigating Burisma, asking Trump for any assistance he could lend by way of additional information that would help “drain the swamp” of the corrupt influences from the prior administration.
“The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty, so we will take care of that,” Zelenskiy said.
” … On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the ambassador to the United States from Ukraine,” he continued.
Return of the ‘Witch Hunt’
The release of the rough transcript set the parameters of the political debate to come.
Trump, at the U.N. on Wednesday, dismissed Democrats’ latest impeachment play as yet another saga in “the single greatest witch hunt in American history.”
It followed sustained efforts led by partisan House committee leaders, including Judiciary chair Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, and Intelligence chair Adam Schiff to use any means necessary to impeach Trump.
Both committee leaders—and many other House Democrats—campaigned and fundraised heavily on the promise of impeachment during the 2018 elections, despite having no evidence to support it.
They have since deepened their investigations, even after the April release of the Mueller report and July testimony from Mueller offered little help in their efforts.
After Nadler declared that his committee had initiated proceedings and subpoenaed former Trump campaign chair Corey Lewandowski to testify in a hearing that proved humiliating to the Democrats, party leader Pelosi—who had sought to forestall impeachment fearing the political fallout—finally relented.
Pelosi declared that the House would formally launch the impeachment process even before seeing evidence or establishing a crime related to the mysterious whistleblower’s complaint.
Schiff has said the whistleblower may appear before Congress as early as this week.
Quid Pro Nothing
Following the report’s release, Trump allies such as Sen. Lindsey Graham ridiculed the hype it had engendered.
Wow. Impeachment over this?
What a nothing (non-quid pro quo) burger.
Democrats have lost their minds when it comes to President @realDonaldTrump.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) September 25, 2019
Although the rough transcript provided by the White House did not appear to support much of the innuendo that leftist politicians and media had suggested, Trump’s opponents remained undeterred following its release.
As they did previously with the Mueller report, left-wingers combed the transcript in search of coded language that might reveal a sinister plot hidden in plain sight even if no “smoking gun” were present.
Schiff claimed that the transcript was, in fact, “far more damning” than expected and likened it to a Mafia-style shakedown, despite little evidence to support his interpretation.
“Like any Mafia boss, the president didn’t need to say, ‘that’s a nice country you have, it would be a shame if something happened to it,’ because that was clear from the conversation,” Schiff said, according to Axios.
Moving the previous goalposts yet again, he downplayed the need for actual discussion of a “quid pro quo” exchange of favors between the two leaders.
“There is no quid pro quo necessary to betray your country or your oath of office,” Schiff said. “Even though many read this as a quid pro quo, I’m not concerned whether it is a quid pro quo or not.”
Digging for Dog-Whistles
Liberals in the media likewise continued to grasp for some new angle of intrigue.
The Associated Press reported that the transcript had implicated Attorney General William Barr in such a conspiracy, marking a new and potentially more serious issue for Trump if the U.S. government were involved with a foreign country to investigate a political rival.
Biden is among the front-runners in the Democratic primary to oppose Trump in next year’s presidential election.
However, if he were implicated in legitimate matters of corruption or conflict of interest stemming from his time as vice president, that likely would be a matter of interest and concern to the U.S. Justice Department.
In the conversation, Trump doesn’t distinguish between the roles of Giuliani, his personal attorney and political ally, and Barr, who as the nation’s top law enforcement officer is supposed to be above the political fray, claimed the AP.
“Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man, he was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you,” Trump said, according to the call summary. “I will ask him to call you along with the attorney general.”
Barr hasn’t discussed anything related to Ukraine with Giuliani, officials said.
Likewise, the president has insisted he did nothing wrong and has denied that any request for help in procuring damaging information about Biden was tied to the aid freeze.
The transcript, which was declassified Tuesday for release on Wednesday revealed other sensitive discussions unrelated to the Biden probe.
Among them were Ukraine’s relationship with other European countries, such as Germany, and the concerns over the partisan dealings of its U.S. diplomat.
Trump took the 30-minute call with Zelenskiy from the White House residence while officials in the Situation Room listened in and worked to keep a record of the conversation, as is standard practice.
The resulting memorandum was classified as “Secret’ and “ORCON, for “originator controlled,” to prevent its spread throughout the federal government or to American allies.
Some feared the disclosure of such details, forced by Democrats’ impeachment threat and a bipartisan Senate resolution on Tuesday posed the concern of a chilling effect on future foreign relations talks.
The release came against the backdrop of the president presiding over a meeting of world leaders at the United Nations, where he sought to address global concerns surrounding issues like a military threat from Iran and trade ware with China.
Adapted from previous reporting by the Associated Press.