No, Not That One: Another Trump-Zelensky Call Made Public

President Donald Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel during the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Keeping key details of the call that sparked his impeachment inquiry under wraps, President Donald Trump released a memo Friday about his first apparent call to the newly elected president of Ukraine.

Dated April 21, the day Volodymyr Zelensky was elected president of Ukraine, the call is more anodyne than the July 25 conversation that inspired a whistleblower to come forward the following month.

Mostly the call consists of Trump congratulating Zelensky for his win, and the two leaders discussing plans to meet in the future.

Trump invited Zelensky to the White House, while the newly elected president of Ukraine asked Trump to come to his inauguration. Trump also mentioned his work with the Miss Universe pageant, saying he always found Ukraine “had great people.”

Like the one summarizing the infamous July 25 call that launched the inquiry, the memo the White House released Friday is not a verbatim transcript but is based on “notes and recollections” from White House officials who listened in and recorded the conversation.

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, one of the key witnesses to testify in the probe so far, said the memo the White House released of the July 25 call is “very accurate, but maybe not flawless.” He specifically said the memo the White House released left out Trump’s claim that there were recordings of Vice President Joe Biden bragging about his efforts to oust Ukraine’s top prosecutor.

Vindman also said that, contrary to the memo the White House released, Zelensky specifically mentioned the name of Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company on whose board Hunter Biden sat. The involvement of the son of former Vice President Joe Biden in the company is one subject U.S. diplomats were pushing Ukraine to investigate this year as the administration slow-walked a $400 million military aid package. 

Vindman testified that it was significant Zelensky mentioned Burisma by name because it meant he “was prepped for the call” at a time when officials in the Trump administration were saying the aid package and a White House meeting were conditioned on the announcement of an investigation into the firm. 

Today’s memo also differs from a short readout of the April 21 call that was released on the day it took place. While the readout says Trump expressed support for “Ukraine’s sovereignty” and promised to work with Zelensky to fight corruption in the country, the rough transcript does not show Trump mentioning the topics explicitly.

At one point, Zelensky referred to Ukraine as an “independent country,” before inviting Trump to his inauguration. Zelensky later generally praised his country, its people and its food, sentiments with which Trump said he agreed.

Trump later told Zelensky, “we’re with you all the way,” and said the two leaders would “have a lot of things to talk about” when they met at the White House.

The Washington Post reported last month that Trump told Vice President Mike Pence not to attend Zelensky’s inauguration in May. Energy Secretary Rick Perry ended up leading the delegation, joined by Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Vindman and  Joseph Pennington, the acting deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.

Perry, Sondland, Volker and Vindman have become key figures in the impeachment inquiry so far.

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