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The Trump-Zelensky Phone Call: Key Takeaways From Two New Documents


The complainant alleged that unnamed “White House officials” had expressed concern about the content of a telephone call between the President and a foreign leader. According to the ICIG, statements made by the President during the call could be viewed as soliciting a foreign campaign contribution in violation of the campaign-finance laws.

This quote comes from the Office of Legal Counsel memo, written by the office’s head, Steven A. Engel, about the still-secret whistle-blower complaint. It shows that one aspect of the complaint is the allegation that Mr. Trump may have violated a law that prohibits the solicitation of an illegal foreign campaign contribution, which can be a “thing of value” as well as funds.

The Justice Department memo also said:

The ICIG further noted that alleged misconduct by a senior U.S. official to seek foreign assistance to interfere in or influence a federal election could potentially expose the official to serious national security and counterintelligence risks.

While the memo does not specify the details of the counterintelligence concern, the suggestion is that if a foreign leader knew that Mr. Trump had broken a law, he would have leverage over the American president because he could threaten to expose the misconduct.

Although the ICIG’s preliminary review found “some indicia of an arguable political bias on the part of the Complainant in favor of a rival political candidate,” the ICIG concluded that the complaint’s allegations nonetheless appeared credible.

Steven Engel’s memo stresses that the whistle-blower “received secondhand” the information about Mr. Trump’s “confidential diplomatic communication.” (As noted, the complaint apparently refers to more events than just this phone call.) It also notes that the inspector general — Michael Atkinson, an appointee of Mr. Trump’s — noted something that suggested that the whistle-blower did not support the re-election of Mr. Trump. Nevertheless, Mr. Atkinson found the allegations credible.

The President: “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. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation in Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”

In this portion of the reconstructed transcript, Mr. Trump appears to be referring to an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory pushed by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, that Ukraine had some involvement in the emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.

Mr. Giuliani said in a previously unpublished portion of an interview with The New York Times in April that he was in touch with people “who said that the Ukrainians were the ones who did the hacking,” then participated in an effort to blame the Russian government and link it to the Trump campaign.

The special counsel’s report, which Mr. Trump disparages here, made clear that Russian military officers hacked the committee’s mail server. There is no evidence that the Ukrainians were involved. But in May, Attorney General William P. Barr began his own investigation into the Russia investigation and its origins.

Kenneth P. Vogel contributed reporting.



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