What the White House Memo Reveals About the Zelenskyy/Trump Phone Call
25 September, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump, facing impeachment after allegations that he misused his office to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy into investigating Trump’s political rival Joe Biden, has released a memorandum containing the contents of a phone call made between the two leaders.

The memo, at about 2,000 words, is not the full, unadulterated transcript, but a recording from memory of the topics spoken about by U.S. National Security Council staff. As a result, the memo may be missing some aspects of the conversation.

As a whole, however, the memo reveals a great deal, and may explain why President Zelenskyy seemed unwilling to support its release – let’s take a look.

The Highlights

The tone throughout the memo is, as both the U.S. and Ukrainian presidents have said, very cordial and friendly – some commentators went so far as to say that President Zelenskyy’s attitude was obsequious. Zelensky spends the first few exchanges praising Trump for his electoral skill, and commenting that “I would like to confess to you that I had an opportunity to learn from you. We used quite a few of your skills·and knowledge, and were able to use it as an example for our elections.”

The conversation then moves on to discussing European support for Ukraine, with both leaders seemingly casting shade on German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Donald Trump mentions that “When I was speaking to Angela Merkel she talks Ukraine, but she doesn't do anything…” with Zelenskyy agreeing. “Yes, you are absolutely right. Not only 100%, but actually 1000% and I can tell you the following; I did talk to Angela Merkel and I did meet with her. I also met and talked with [French President] Macron and I told them that they are not doing quite as much as they need to be doing on the issues with the sanctions.” says the Ukrainian president.

 Afterwards, the conversation moves on to what critics of Donald Trump have called into question, as the U.S. president starts his next statement asking for a favor from his Ukrainian counterpart, mentioning both Crowdstrike (a cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic National Committee) and Biden – though how Crowdstrike is connected to Ukraine is anyone’s guess, as the firm neither works in, nor has any business with Ukraine. 

 “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it…The other thing, 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,” said Trump during the call. 

 READ MORE: What Trump’s New Scandal Means for Ukraine​

For his part, President Zelenskyy seems receptive toward the idea, responding that he would open an investigation into the Burisma case that Trump was presumably referring to. “[The new Prosecutor General] will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case.”

The Ukrainian president also added some criticism of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie L. Yovanovitch, saying that she “...would not accept me as a new president well enough.”

The two presidents then discuss a possible visit of Trump’s personal lawyer, former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, to Ukraine, as well as a further meeting in Poland and Washington D.C., though the U.S. President did not seem receptive to the idea of visiting Kyiv.  

Quid Pro Quo?

While there was no mention of military aid in the conversation recorded in the memo, the U.S. president did appear to request Ukraine to open an investigation into a political rival, and the Ukrainian side appeared open to the idea, giving credence to claims from Democratic Party Congressmen that Donald Trump abused the power of the presidency. 

The Ukrainian government had not issued an official response at press time.

Read the full memo here.

/By Romeo Kokriatski