Breaking Down the Phone Call Between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky

“I would like you to do us a favor,” Trump asked President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation in Ukraine … 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.”

Let’s break it down:

  • President Trump attempted to solicit the support of a foreign government in aid of his own 2020 campaign, this may be in violation of Federal Campaign Finance Laws.[1]
  • This request came immediately after President Zelensky asked about military aid to combat Russia

President Trump repeatedly asked that an investigation be opened into former Vice-Pesident Joe Biden and his role in the firing of Viktor Shokin, a Ukrainian prosecutor. Trump claims that firing was because Biden feared his son was being investigated.

This is a complete mischaracterization of the facts.

After Ukraine’s revolution, Ukrainian President Poroshenko was dealing with a slew of corruption scandals:

  • International Monetary Fund’s assistance of a $1.8 billion loan to help the Ukrainian banking system disappeared offshore in accounts owned by Shokin.[2]
  • Shokin fired prosecutors who were working on corruption cases against his own corrupt officials.[3]
  • Following pressure from Western Allies, the Ukrainian parliament overwhelmingly voted to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.
  • Western Allies and the European Union celebrated the ousting.[4]
  • Former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko debunked President Trump’s conspiracy:““[f]rom the perspective of Ukrainian legislation, he did not violate anything,” and added “Hunter Biden cannot be responsible for violations of the management of Burisma that took place two years before his arrival.”^[5]
  • Just days before his conversation with Zelensky, Trump froze aid allocated to Ukraine.[6]

The White House continues to mislead by claiming that aid was frozen due to corruption, but a letter from the Pentagon certified Ukraine had taken the necessary action to decrease corruption 2 months before President Trump blocked aid.[7]

On the topic of corruption, the Trump administration had tried to cut billions of dollars from corruption fighting campaigns globally including millions in anti-corruption programs in Ukraine.[8]

Military Aid Background

  • One month before the phone call, the Pentagon announced plans to provide $250 million to Ukraine. The money was earmarked for security cooperation in the form of training and equipment to aid Ukraine’s military rebuild following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.[9] [10]

Following the phone call a whistle blower from DNI filed a complaint:

 “[President Trump was] using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the US 2020 election,” [12]

Finally, U.S. Ambassador to the EU and major Trump campaign donor Gordon Sondland told Congressional investigators that this was a quid pro quo deal.[13]

Then, top U.S. diplomat Bill Taylor testified to Congress that President Trump extorted Zelensky, withholding $400 million in military aid in exchange for Zelensky publicly acting out a fake news script about opening up an investigation into Biden. [14]

  1. Washington Post – How Trump’s Ukraine call could violate campaign finance laws

  2. Reuters – Corruption in Ukraine is so bad, a Nigerian prince would be embarrassed

  3. Kyiv Post – Demonstrators protest Shokin’s firing of anti-corruption prosecutors

  4. New York Times – Ukraine Ousts Viktor Shokin, Top Prosecutor, and Political Stability Hangs in the Balance

  5. Washington Post – Former Ukraine prosecutor says Hunter Biden ‘did not violate anything’

  6. Wall Street Journal – Trump Put Hold on Military Aid Ahead of Phone Call With Ukraine’s President

  7. The Hill – Pentagon letter certified Ukraine had taken action to decrease corruption before White House blocked aid

  8. Washington Post – Trump administration sought billions of dollars in cuts to programs aimed at fighting corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere

  9. Military Times – Russia’s conflict with Ukraine: An explainer

  10. Defense News – Here’s what you need to know about the US aid package to Ukraine that Trump delayed

  11. BBC – White House ‘tried to cover up details of Trump-Ukraine call’

  12. PBS – Read what the inspector general said about the ‘urgent’ whistleblower concern

  13. Wall Street Journal – Sondland Told House Panels Trump’s Ukraine Pressure Was Quid Pro Q

  14. The Intercept – Trump Pressed Ukraine’s President to Act Out a Fake News Script, Live on CNN

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