President Donald Trump said he has authorized the release on Wednesday of the “complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript” of his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he discussed a possible investigation into Joe Biden and his son.
“I am currently at the United Nations representing our Country, but have authorized the release tomorrow of the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript of my phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine,” Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday. “You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call. No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo! This is nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!”
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The president waffled over the last few days over whether he would release a transcript of the call, which is at the center of a whistleblower complaint that his administration has blocked lawmakers from getting access to. Trump told reporters on Monday that he hoped the media would “get to see” the call, but he later said he didn’t want to set the precedent of releasing the contents of calls between world leaders.
Tuesday evening, Trump tweeted that Ukraine had given Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the green light to release a transcirpt of the call. “They don’t know either what the big deal is,“ he said. “A total Witch Hunt Scam by the Democrats!“
The call has loomed over his two days at the U.N. General Assembly, with Trump facing questions on the topic nearly every time he appeared before reporters. And the controversy has prompted a rush of new Democratic support for launching an impeachment inquiry into the president, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally announced later in the day.
While he has repeatedly insisted the July call — and his urging of an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter — was above board, it coincided with the White House mysteriously choosing to delay $250 million in military aid meant for the country. Trump has offered evolving explanations for the hold-up over the last few days, first arguing that he wanted to ensure Zelensky was serious about fighting corruption, but on Tuesday he told reporters that he wanted other European countries to make larger financial contributions to Ukraine aid. Trump is set to meet with Zelensky later this week at the U.N. in New York.
But the president’s decision to release the transcript of his call won’t extinguish the calls for his removal from office — several lawmakers who have come out in support of an impeachment inquiry have said that the contents of the call are mostly moot now that Trump has openly acknowledged raising the prospect of investigating Biden with Zelensky. Regardless of whether Trump directly linked the release of the military aid to a Biden probe, they’ve said, asking a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent crosses the line.
In a televised interview with The Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg minutes after Trump’s tweet posted, Pelosi gave a blunt “no” when asked if releasing the transcript would cool tensions within her caucus.
“It’s really important to know this. It is — there is no requirement there be a quid pro quo in the conversation. If the president brings up, wants them to investigate something … of his political opponent, that is self-evident that it is not right,” she said. “You don’t ask foreign governments to help us in our election.”
“I don’t think there’s a grasp on the part of this administration that the quid pro quo is not essential to an impeachable offense,” she continued, pointing to the sequence of events surrounding the call as reported in the media.
The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump had directed his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to put a hold on the Ukraine aid about a week before his call with Zelensky. During the call, the Wall Street Journal reported, the president urged an investigation into the Bidens roughly eight times.
After coming under bipartisan pressure, the administration relented and released the funds a little under two weeks ago.
Biden, who has long been considered one of Trump’s top competitors for the presidency next year, has forcefully denied the accusations leveled by Trump and his allies: That he used his vice presidential perch to oust the Ukrainian prosecutor investigating a company tied to his son.
Trump has argued that the episode was an example of undue influence by Biden, though the prosecutor’s ouster had wide backing among the international community at the time.
Biden and his campaign have mounted an aggressive public defense, and on Tuesday the former vice president came out in favor of impeachment if Trump continued to stonewall Congress on its various oversight investigations.