WH considers releasing transcript of Trump call with Ukraine's president: Sources

The release of a classified transcript would be highly unusual.

September 23, 2019, 1:43 PM

Some of President Donald Trump’s closest advisers are discussing whether to release the transcript of a call the president had with the president of Ukraine in July that is the subject of a whistleblower complaint, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

“You’re going to see,” Trump told reporters Monday morning as he entered the UN General Assembly and was asked about the details of that July conversation.

"It's true what the president said, when foreign leaders come together to speak, they need to be able to speak candidly. I do think that perhaps releasing this kind of a transcript could set a bad precedent," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said during a Monday morning interview with Fox News. "He is willing to do it, I think. There is a lot of other people, lawyers and such that may have a problem with it. We will see what happens." It is rare that a transcript of a president’s call with a foreign leader would be made public, but this case us unusual because the call is reported to be part of the whistleblower complaint.

PHOTO:President Donald Trump walks over to talk with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Sept. 22, 2019, as he prepares to board Marine One.
President Donald Trump walks over to talk with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Sept. 22, 2019, as he prepares to board Marine One.
Susan Walsh/AP

Members of the White House counsel’s office have been discussing since last week what options are available to them in order to get ahead of any potential legal battle -- one of which includes releasing the transcript either in full or with some redactions.

Administration sources tell ABC News that the whistleblower acknowledged in the complaint to the inspector general that they learned of the contents of the call between Trump and Ukraine's president second-hand.

President Trump on Sunday referenced that reporting in an attempt to undermine the whistleblower's account.

However, the White House has to date provided no information that calls into question the validity of the information included in the complaint. In a letter to the House Intelligence Committee on Sep. 17, DNI Inspector General Michael Atkinson wrote that after a 14-day preliminary review he believed the complaint "met the definition of an urgent concern" and that it "appeared credible."

While President Trump has sought to discredit the whistleblower as "partisan," he has not directly disputed any specific reporting on what is alleged in the complaint. And on Sunday, Trump confirmed that he discussed former Vice President Joe Biden in his call with the Ukrainian President, while defending the call as "absolutely perfect."

"The conversation I had was largely congratulatory," Trump said. "It was largely corruption -- all of the corruption taking place. Largely the fact that we don't want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine."

In a letter over the weekend to her Democratic colleagues, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the administration "will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation." Pelosi has given a Thursday deadline to the administration to provide information related to the complaint. The deadline is tied to a scheduled appearance by Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire who is expected to testify in front of the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

According to a readout released from the White House just after the call occurred on July 25, Trump spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "to congratulate him on his recent election."

A more extensive readout from the Ukrainian president's office, also released after the call, noted that the two also spoke about "investigations into corruption cases that have hampered interaction between Ukraine and the U.S.A."

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Trump pressed him about eight times to investigate Biden's son.

The president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has publicly and privately urged in recent months for Ukrainian officials to investigate ties between former Vice President Joe Biden's diplomatic efforts in the country and any connections between his son's business ventures there.

In a tweet late Monday morning the president questioned the whistleblower’s loyalty: “Is he on our Country’s side. Where does he come from. Is this all about Schiff & the Democrats again after years of being wrong?”

The identity of the whistleblower has not been released and the president has previously said he does not know who it is.

The White House declined comment.

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