The latest on Trump's Ukraine drama
White House officials are considering releasing a transcript of President Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president, multiple sources tell CNN.
However, some senior administration officials, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, are against the idea because of the precedent releasing it could set with future foreign leaders — and because putting it out could give Congress ammunition to demand transcripts of Trump’s calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
White House officials were soliciting opinions from outside advisers over the weekend about whether they should release the transcript of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president, as well as how advisers think the White House should message it if the transcript was “embarrassing.”
A person familiar with the discussions said the White House Counsel’s Office is currently involved in evaluating whether the transcript should be released and in what form. The person saying the release could happen “soon.”
President Trump said he had a "perfect" phone call with the president of Ukraine and added that he's not taking impeachment threats from the Democrats seriously.
A reporter at the United Nations General Assembly just asked Trump how seriously he's taking the impeachment talk.
"Not at all seriously. We had a perfect phone call with the president of Ukraine. Everybody knows it's just a Democrat witch hunt. Here we go again," Trump responded.
Some context: Weighing in on the Ukraine controversy on Sunday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said that impeachment "may be the only remedy" to Trump's refusal to make public the complaint and phone call transcript.
Bill Weld, who is running against President Trump for the GOP 2020 nomination, said the President's call to Ukraine is "treason, pure and simple."
In an interview with MSNBC, Weld was asked about the report that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his potential Democratic general election opponent Joe Biden.
“It couldn’t be clearer, and that’s not just undermining democratic institutions, that is treason,” Weld said. “It’s treason, pure and simple, and the penalty for treason under the US code is death, that’s the only penalty.”
Trump and his top aides appear split on whether or not it's a good idea to release the transcript of the call in question between him and the Ukrainian president.
Trump says release the transcript: Trump was asked by reporters Sunday about releasing the transcript of the July 25 call and responded: "I hope they can put it out."
Some of his top administration officials think it's a bad idea.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there's no evidence such an action "would be appropriate" at this time.
"We don't release transcripts very often. It's the rare case," Pompeo added during an interview Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "Those are private conversations between world leaders, and it wouldn't be appropriate to do so except in the most extreme circumstances. There's no, there's no evidence that would be appropriate here at this point."
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also weighed in, telling CNN Sunday that he thinks releasing the transcript "would be a terrible precedent," arguing that "conversations between world leaders are meant to be confidential."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a close ally of hers, were in close contact throughout the weekend talking about the Ukraine whistleblower story and coordinating strategy, a leadership aide confirmed to CNN. This as you saw both make key moves today.
Schiff — who had not supported impeachment so far — signaled a shift in his opinion on CNN’s “State of the Union” telling Jake Tapper:
“You know I have been very reluctant to go down the path of impeachment, for the reason that I think the founders contemplating, in a country that has elections every four years, that this would be an extraordinary remedy, a remedy of last resort, not first resort. But if the president is essentially withholding military aid, at the same time that he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader into doing something illicit, that is, providing dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy that is co-equal to the evil that that conduct represents.”
Then, Pelosi on Sunday put out the unusual letter to all members of the House giving a Thursday deadline for the Director of National Intelligence to allow the whistleblower complaint regarding the President’s phone call with the Ukrainian President to be given to the Intelligence Committee.
She also pushed the administration to work out a way for the whistleblower to speak to both the Senate and House intelligence panels. She said “if the administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation.”
Here's what you might have missed over the weekend with the Trump-Ukraine controversy:
- Trump admitted he discussed Biden with the Ukrainian president: Trump on Sunday acknowledged that he discussed former Vice President Joe Biden in a July call with Ukraine's president. Trump, while speaking with reporters before departing the White House for events in Texas and Ohio, said the conversation was "largely congratulatory, was largely corruption," adding "we don't want our people like Vice President Biden and his son (adding to the corruption)."
- How Democrats responded: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said that impeachment "may be the only remedy" to Trump's refusal to make public the complaint and phone call transcript. Schiff has so far resisted joining other Democrats in calling for impeachment. He told CNN he has been "very reluctant" to push for proceedings against the President because he sees it as a "remedy of last resort."
- What Biden has said: Biden responded to questions about Ukraine and Trump on Saturday, telling reporters: "Trump is doing this because he knows I'll beat him like a drum and he is using the abuse of power and every element of the presidency to try to do something to smear me."
- The Thursday deadline: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set a deadline for Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire to turn over the full whistleblower complaint to the House Intelligence Committee.
Trump is attending the the UN General Assembly this week in New York City. But it will be shadowed by an unrelated controversy: his reported attempt to convince Ukraine's leader to investigate a political rival during a summer phone call.
What we know so far about the call: Trump on Sunday acknowledged that he discussed former Vice President Joe Biden in a July call with Ukraine's president. Now, Democrats have strengthened calls for investigation into Trump's contact with the foreign leader and party leadership warned of a new lawless chapter in the United States.
At the UN this week: The plots will converge Wednesday when Trump meets Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on the sidelines of the summit here.
But before then, the President will dart between meetings with more than a dozen foreign leaders on Monday and Tuesday, eager to apply his distinctly personal brand of one-on-one diplomacy to the world's foremost body of multilateralism.