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Trump-Zelenskiy Phone Call Notes: What They Mean And What's Next


This morning, we are getting a look at what was said in the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukraine's president. This was the call that prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to announce a formal impeachment inquiry last night. What's at issue here is whether the president threatened to withhold money from Ukraine unless the Ukrainian government investigated Joe Biden and his son.

Now, the president says, yes, he ordered the aid to Ukraine blocked a week before that call. But he's offered conflicting explanations about why, and he still says the phone call was totally appropriate. National security reporter Greg Myre is with us. And, Greg, we now have a transcript version of this phone call. But we should note that the transcript version itself notes it's not a word-for-word transcript. You've had time to look through it. What does it tell us?

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Right. So as you stated, it's not a recording. There is no recording that we're aware of. But you did have note takers putting notes as if they were in quotes so they produced their best - the best transcript they did. Now, one thing I noticed is Trump is speaking to the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. And he talks about, I would like you to do us a favor.

And then he asked the president to look in to Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, and what they had been doing a few years earlier in Ukraine. He also says he would like the Ukrainian president or Ukrainian officials to speak with his personal lawyer, Rudi Giuliani, and Attorney General Bill Barr. So he's - he seems to be clearly asking for help against a political rival here.

KING: Yeah. It is notable that President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, comes up so often in this call with a foreign leader. What do we know about what role Rudy Giuliani played in all of this? And does this transcript make any of it clearer?

MYRE: Well, it tends to reinforce what we already know. Rudy Giuliani has been talking on television. He's been tweeting about the role he's been playing with Ukraine for several months now. So this is not new. He said we should investigate the Bidens.

And again, he's the personal lawyer of the president. He's not a government official. He said he's been in contact with the State Department and he did coordinate with them - still, highly unusual for the president's personal lawyer to be involved in this way.

KING: President Trump had said that if a transcript of this call or notes of this call were released, it would clear him of wrongdoing. It would show that he hadn't done anything wrong. Does this version of the call that we now have - does it exonerate him?

MYRE: Quite the opposite. I mean, it seems to implicate him in the central charge that he was asking for help against Joe Biden, going to a foreign government and making that claim. Now, was he asking for a quid pro quo or some of these other legal details? That's all going to have to be sorted out. That's not resolved here. But in this transcript, the president is making this request very directly.

KING: The quid pro quo will be a big one going forward, which is, was he threatening to withhold the aid if Ukraine did not act immediately on what he said? So listen, I hate to ask this question in a breaking news situation, but what happens next?

MYRE: Well, this is just the transcript of this one phone call that's been at the center of this controversy for the past week or so. The whistleblower complaint - a member of the intelligence community made a complaint about the president's actions. There may be more here. There may be more to it than just this one phone call. This is what we know so far. But we have not seen the full whistleblower complaint.

KING: A lot of people, of course, really want to see that. NPR's Greg Myre. Thanks so much, Greg.

MYRE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.
Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.