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25 Sep, 2019 18:32

The 'incriminating' call between Trump & Zelensky, explained

The 'incriminating' call between Trump & Zelensky, explained

Democrats are eager to impeach US President Donald Trump over a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. What does the transcript of the call actually say about the players in this drama and their motivations?

Trump stands accused of withholding US military aid from Ukraine pending the reopening of an investigation into Burisma Holdings, where former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter was a director. The allegations stem from the words of a "whistleblower" who didn't actually hear the call.

Also on rt.com US Justice Dept releases much-anticipated summary of Trump’s call with Ukrainian president

The transcript of the phone call between the two presidents, on July 25, does not actually show sinister quid-pro-quo negotiations regarding military aid, however. After some pleasantries and a bit of bashing of the EU and Russia, Zelensky discusses his desire to “drain the swamp” in Ukraine, borrowing Trump’s famous campaign phrase. Trump talks about how good the US has been to Ukraine. Zelensky suggests his country will soon purchase more "Javelin missiles,” referring to anti-tank weapons the US has been providing Kiev. Then Trump asks for a favor.

I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people…The server, they say Ukraine has it,” Trump says, expressing fear that Zelensky is “surrounding [himself] with some of the same people.

They say a lot of [Russiagate] started with Ukraine.

Crowdstrike is the cybersecurity contractor that ran the DNC servers in 2016, and originated the claim that Russia had hacked into them. That quickly morphed into accusations that Trump was “colluding” with Russia, which led to the three-year ‘Russiagate’ probe against Trump. The US president is referring to the fact that Crowdstrike never allowed the FBI to examine the actual servers, and speculates the physical device might be in the hands of one of Ukraine’s oligarchs – it is unclear who, exactly.

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Zelensky assures Trump that he is replacing Ukraine’s ambassador to the US with someone who he hopes would have Trump’s “trust and confidence,” and intends to surround himself with the “best and most experienced people.” He also mentions being eager to meet with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani – presumably as a personal envoy – before adding:

I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly.

It is here that Trump brings up Biden, in the context of a “prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair,” and the former vice-president’s role in that. “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 [William Barr] would be great.”

This is a reference to Biden boasting at a 2018 event how he threatened to withhold $1 billion in IMF loan guarantees to Kiev unless their chief prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was dismissed:

I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a b*tch. He got fired.

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There is some confusion as to whether Shokin was investigating Burisma or dragging his feet on the investigation. His replacement, Yuriy Lutsenko, did little to probe the gas company, saying in May this year that the US embassy in Kiev gave him a “do not prosecute” list. The State Department denies the charges, but the ambassador – Marie Yovanovich – was recalled after that revelation, and Zelensky voiced his displeasure with her on the call.

Her attitude towards me was far from the best, and she admired the previous president and she was on his side,” Zelensky said.

According to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, this proves Trump sought from Zelensky “actions which would benefit him politically,” which amounts to “the president's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”

Trump said his conversation with Zelensky was perfectly normal and dismissed the impeachment inquiry as “nonsense” and the “single greatest witch-hunt in American history.”

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