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Trump pressed Ukraine’s president to work with Barr to investigate Biden

President Donald Trump. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

White House

But DOJ says Trump never talked with Barr about having Ukraine probe Biden.

Updated

President Donald Trump urged Ukraine’s president to work with his attorney general and personal attorney on a potential investigation into Joe Biden, according to a transcript of a July 25 call released by the White House on Wednesday.

The release comes one day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally threw her support behind an impeachment inquiry of Trump and accused him of committing a “betrayal of his oath of office.”

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According to the five-page document, Trump pressed the newly elected leader to work with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, and Attorney General William Barr, on an investigation into the former vice president and his son Hunter.

“There is a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution, and a lot of people want to find out about that,” Trump told Zelensky, according to the White House transcript. “So whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great.”

Trump added later that he would have Barr get in touch with Zelenksy and that “we will get to the bottom of it.”

In a statement Wednesday, the Justice Department said that it was unaware of Trump saying he would involve Barr in the matter until “several weeks after the call took place,” when it learned of the whistleblower complaint.

“The President has not spoken with the Attorney General about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son. The President has not asked the Attorney General to contact Ukraine – on this or any other matter,” spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement. “The Attorney General has not communicated with Ukraine – on this or any other subject. Nor has the Attorney General discussed this matter, or anything relating to Ukraine, with Rudy Giuliani.”

The transcript does not include any reference, explicit or otherwise, to the aid money that Trump reportedly directed his acting chief of staff to withhold from Ukraine about a week before the call took place. Trump does mention numerous times how the U.S. spends “a lot of effort and a lot of time” assisting Ukraine.

Trump also asked Zelenksy “to do us a favor” and look into an unsubstantiated theory that Ukraine played some role in a cache of emails being stolen from the Democratic National Committee leading up to the 2016 election.

But it comes after multiple days of wrangling by lawmakers to compel the administration to turn over a whistleblower complaint regarding the call. Its release also marks a change in the White House’s strategy of near-universal stonewalling of congressional Democrats.

Trump’s acting intelligence chief had appeared intent to continue to block lawmakers from seeing the complaint in what Democrats argue is a breach of the intel community’s whistleblower statute. It is still unclear if the White House intends to turn the complaint over, but Democrats have asserted that they require more than just the transcript of the call.

Also at the center of the controversy is the White House’s mysterious decision around the same time to slow-walk hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid meant for Ukraine. The Washington Post reported this week that the president asked his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to delay the funds. And Trump’s public explanations for withholding the aid — which was eventually released two weeks ago — have evolved over the last few days. While he first asserted that he wanted to ensure Zelensky would prioritize rooting out corruption, on Tuesday he cited other countries’ reluctance to provide what he sees as their fair share of aid for Ukraine.

The president has repeatedly insisted that there was no quid pro quo on the call, denying that he dangled hundreds of billions of dollars in aid in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens.

Trump and his supporters have accused Biden of exerting his power as vice president to oust a Ukrainian prosecutor looking into an energy company with ties to Hunter Biden, though the prosecutor’s firing was widely cheered by the international community.

The president’s admission that he’d broached the subject of an investigation into a political opponent with a foreign leader was a tipping point for a slew of Democrats — including vulnerable incumbents — who’ve come out in support of an impeachment inquiry over the last week.

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