As part of his ongoing attack on a whistleblower complaint filed regarding a July call with the Ukrainian President, Donald Trump said on Wednesday that the transcript of that call shows how wrong the whistleblower actually was about what had transpired.
“The only reason that I put (the rough transcript of the call) out, and I did it with the approval with the Ukraine, by the way, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it, was because the whistleblower was so dishonest,” Trump said, adding: “When a whistleblower takes a very nice, innocent (conversation) … the whistleblower wrote not that conversation. He wrote a vicious conversation. In other words, he either got it totally wrong, made it up, or the person giving the information to the whistleblower was dishonest.”
Later Wednesday, Trump doubled down: “I have a lot of respect for whistleblowers, but only when they’re real.”
The problem with the President’s explanation is not only that it’s wrong. It’s also that the truth is the exact opposite of what he says it is.
Let’s go to the documents!
Here’s how the whistleblower complaint, which was publicly released on September 26, describes the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky:
“Multiple White House officials with direct knowledge of the call informed me that, after an initial exchange of pleasantries, the President used the remainder of the call to advance his personal interests. Namely, he sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid. According to the White House officials who had direct knowledge of the call, the President pressured Mr. Zelenskyy to, inter alia:
* initiate or continue an investigation into the activities of former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter Biden;
* assist in purportedly uncovering that allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election originated in Ukraine , with a specific request that the Ukrainian leader locate and turn over servers used by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and examined by the U.S. cyber security firm Crowdstrike,3 which initially reported that Russian hackers had penetrated the DNC’s networks in 2016; and
* meet or speak with two people the President named explicitly as his personal envoys on these matters, Mr. Giuliani and Attorney General Barr, to whom the President referred multiple times in tandem.”
And now for how the rough transcript of that same call – as released by the White House on September 25:
“I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing and they should be helping you more than they are….
…. I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine….
… I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike…
…The other thing, 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 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…
… I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it. I’m sure you will figure it out.”
Quick: Tell me what the whistleblower got wrong about the conversation?
As far as I can tell, the whistleblower very accurately described what Trump did. The President a) raised the issue of corruption by the Bidens (although no evidence of said corruption by Joe or Hunter Biden exists) b) floated a debunked conspiracy theory about the physical DNC server being somewhere in Ukraine and c) asked Zelensky to talk to Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani about both the Crowdstrike and corruption investigations.
To my eye, what the release of the transcript of the Ukraine call did is the exact opposite of what Trump claimed it did: It made the whistleblower seem all the more credible
Now, to be clear: Simply because one piece of the whistleblower complaint seems to be borne out by what we know actually happened doesn’t mean the entire report is as accurate. We simply don’t know yet. That’s why the whistleblower’s testimony on Capitol Hill and the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into what happened in and around the Ukraine call are so important.
What we do know: There is nothing – not one thing – currently in the public sphere that shows the whistleblower complaint is, as Trump claimed Wednesday, “wrong” or that the whistleblower “made it up.”
Facts. They’re pesky things.