White House record of Trump's 1st call with Ukrainian president differs from earlier description

The release comes as public hearings continue in the House impeachment probe.

November 16, 2019, 2:25 PM

WASHINGTON -- A rough transcript of a congratulatory phone call President Donald Trump made this spring to Ukraine's president-elect contained no mention of corruption, despite the White House shortly after the call saying Trump had broached the subject.

The White House on Friday released the rough transcript of the call Trump made to Volodymyr Zelenskiy on April 21, after the latter had won Ukraine’s presidential election. In September, the White House released a rough transcript of a second call between the two leaders -- on July 25 -- that has played a central role in the House impeachment inquiry into Trump's behavior.

A readout of the April call that the White House provided at the time said the president "expressed his commitment to work together with President-elect Zelenskyy (sic) and the Ukrainian people to implement reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity, and root out corruption."

PHOTO: President Donald Trump is shown at the Veteran's Day Parade in New York, Nov. 11, 2019.
President Donald Trump is shown at the Veteran's Day Parade in New York, Nov. 11, 2019.
Erik Pendzich/REX via Shutterstock

But the rough transcript was devoid of any discussion of policy matters. Rather, much of the call consisted of Trump praising Zelenskiy's campaign after the Ukrainian compared his own election to that of Trump’s.

Trump did not raise the issue of corruption on the call despite a recommendation from the National Security Council that he do so and NSC talking points he received on the topic, according to a person familiar with the call and preparations for the conversation.

The official readout shared with the press was drafted in advance of the phone call and based on talking points and briefing materials Trump received and did not follow, the person said.

The draft statements, which are prepared by the NSC legal and press teams and approved by the National Security Advisor, are typically updated to reflect the conversations.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council staffer who listened in on both of the president’s calls with Zelenskiy, has already testified to House investigators behind closed doors that there was nothing out of the ordinary with the April call.

"The April 21st call is notable in my mind because it was actually a very good call. It was exactly what we had -- we were hoping for," Vindman said. "It was just -- everybody was happy, high-fiving from that call because we were moving in the right direction for Ukraine."

The Ukrainian president-elect invited Trump to his inauguration, while at the same time, Trump mentioned a White House visit.

“When you’re settled in and ready, I’d like to invite you to the White House,” Trump said during the roughly 16-minute call he made from Air Force One. “We’ll have a lot of things to talk about, but we’re with you all the way.”

The document released by the White House is called a “memorandum of a telephone conversation,” and the first page notes that it “is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion,” but rather a recording of the notes and recollections of” officials who were “assigned to listen and memorialize the conversation in written form as the conversation takes place.”

Minutes after the White House released the memo, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, California Rep. Devin Nunes, read it aloud during a hearing with the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, as part of the House’s public impeachment inquiry proceedings. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said that Trump planned to watch Nunes deliver his opening statement.

Grisham told ABC News nothing had been redacted or otherwise not included.

“As you can see if you look at it – it is the full transcript,” she said.

officially announced it four days after the call.

Related Topics