Trump Impeachment: Memo Confirms President Urged Biden Inquiry

US President Donald Trump

September 25, 2019//-The Trump administration has released details of a phone conversation in July that has triggered a US impeachment inquiry against the president.

According to the notes, Donald Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to look into corruption claims involving the son of Joe Biden, Mr Trump’s possible rival in next year’s presidential election.

Mr Trump denies withholding US military aid to Ukraine as leverage.

The Trump-Ukraine phone call is part of a whistleblower’s complaint.

What does Trump say about Biden in the call?

Mr Trump discusses with his newly elected Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, the 2016 removal of a prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, according to notes of their 25 July telephone conversation released by the White House.

The US president is quoted as saying in the call: “I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair.

“A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved.”

He continues: “The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution [of Mr Biden’s son] and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the [US] Attorney General would be great.

Media caption“He’s violated so many clauses of the constitution” – US citizens react to impeachment inquiry

“Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.”

Mr Zelensky says in response: “We will take care of that and we will work on the investigation of the case.”

Thanking Mr Trump, Mr Zelensky says he stayed in Trump Tower in New York City during a previous visit to the US.

During the call, the US president also asks Mr Zelensky to work with US Attorney General William Barr and Mr Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, to look into the matter, according to the notes.

The Department of Justice said on Wednesday that Mr Trump had not spoken with the attorney general about having Ukraine investigate Mr Biden, and Mr Barr had not communicated with Ukraine.

What are the Biden claims?

Mr Trump and his conservative allies have focused on how Mr Biden, as US vice-president in 2016, lobbied Ukraine to fire Mr Shokin.

Mr Shokin’s office had opened an investigation into Burisma, a natural gas company on which Mr Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a board member.

Other Western officials had called for Mr Shokin to be fired because of the perception that he was soft on corruption.

No evidence has come to light so far of wrongdoing by the Bidens.

How the controversy unfolded

  • 18 July – President Trump orders White House aide to hold back almost $400m in military aid to Ukraine, report US media
  • 25 July – President Trump speaks with Ukraine’s leader in a 30-minute phone call
  • 9 September – Congress learns of a whistleblower’s complaint about the call, but is blocked by the Trump administration from viewing it
  • 11 September – Military aid for Ukraine is cleared for release by the Pentagon and US Department of State
  • 23 September – Trump confirms he withheld Ukrainian aid, saying it was due to concerns about “corruption”
  • 24 September – Trump says the aid was withheld so that other countries would pay more

What is the background of the call?

Mr Trump had promised that a “complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript” of the 25 July call would be released.

But the details disclosed by the White House on Wednesday morning were notes of the conversation taken by US officials who listened in.

The July call occurred days after Mr Trump directed the US government to withhold about $391m (£316m) in military aid to Ukraine.

There is no discussion of that money in the memorandum released by the White House.

What’s the reaction?

On Wednesday morning at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Mr Trump said it was the “single greatest witch hunt in American history”.

“The way you had that built up that call, it was going to be the call from hell,” said Mr Trump, who is up for re-election in November 2020.

“It turned out to be a nothing call.”

But California Democrat Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters the phone call shows “a classic, mafia-like shakedown of a foreign leader”.

What’s happening with the impeachment inquiry?

The Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on Tuesday threw her weight behind an official impeachment inquiry into the president’s actions.

A House vote to impeach the president for “high crimes and misdemeanours” under the US constitution could trigger a trial in the Senate on whether to remove Mr Trump from office.

Congress’ probe focuses partly on whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought to help his own re-election by seeking the aid of a foreign government to undermine Mr Biden.

Mrs Pelosi said such actions would mark a “betrayal of his oath of office” and declared: “No one is above the law.”

Pelosi: “The president must be held accountable; no one is above the law.”

How did the controversy arise?

The inspector general for the intelligence community wrote to the Director of National Intelligence in August about the Trump-Zelenksy call.

A whistleblower from within the US intelligence community had filed a complaint with an internal watchdog about the matter.

Federal law requires such complaints to be disclosed to Congress, but the Trump administration has so far refused to do so.

The US Department of Justice says the whistleblower had heard the information from “White House officials,” and did not have first-hand knowledge of the call.

The department’s spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said on Wednesday it had reviewed a record of the phone call, and determined “there was no campaign finance violation and that no further action was required”.

BBC

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