ADDS JUSTICE DEPARTMENT COMMENT IN GRAFS 5-6, 19-21
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden during a telephone call, a rough transcript released by the White House Wednesday confirms.
Trump asked Zelensky during a July 25 conversation to get in touch with Attorney General William Barr and Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, about Trump's so far uncorroborated claims of corruption.
"I would like you to do us a favor," Trump said after Zelensky raised the issue of arms purchases from the U.S., according to the transcript, which the White House notes is not verbatim and based on notes and records taken by Situation Room and National Security Council staffers.
"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," Trump said. " I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it. I'm sure you will figure it out."
The president did not ask Barr to contact Ukraine about investigating the Bidens, however, according to Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec.
"The President has not asked the Attorney General to contact Ukraine – on this or any other matter. The Attorney General has not communicated with Ukraine – on this or any other subject. Nor has the Attorney General discussed this matter, or anything relating to Ukraine, with Rudy Giuliani," she said in a statement.
Revelations of a whistle-blower complaint regarding the call and ensuing claims Trump sought to hold up hundreds of millions of dollars in military funding to Ukraine that was already appropriated by Congress to leverage the Ukrainian president has prompted the House of Representatives to open an impeachment probe into Trump.
If Trump did so it would be an improper use of his office, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said when announcing the investigation that could eventually lead to Trump's ouster "the president must be held accountable."
Biden is the leading Democratic nominee heading into the 2020 presidential race, making him a clear political rival to the president.
Trump has acknowledged the call and freezing aid just days before, but he has denied he held up funding to pressure Zelensky, insisting there was no "quid pro quo."
The elder Biden was the point person for Ukraine during the Obama administration and sought to have the country crack down on corruption, which included his successful call for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, which was supported at the time by the international community.
Shokin was reportedly probing Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company whose board the younger Biden joined in 2014, among other cases.
Trump has not offered any evidence to support his claim the Bidens are corrupt, and shortly after the White House released the memo he questioned if Democrats would "apologize after seeing what was said on the call with the Ukrainian President?"
"They should, a perfect call - got them by surprise!" he said.
But Democrats showed no signs of backing down from pursuing impeachment.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the transcript "reads like a classic mob shakedown."
"Nice country you got there," Schiff said giving his sardonic summary of the call. "It would be a shame if something happened to her."
The whistle-blower whose complaint brought the incident into the public realm has asked to speak before Schiff's committee, and the chairman said it could happen as soon as this week.
The individual's complaint was referred by the intelligence community's inspector general to the Justice Department in August as a possible campaign finance violation.
"Relying on established procedures set forth in the Justice Manual, the Department’s Criminal Division reviewed the official record of the call and determined, based on the facts and applicable law, that there was no campaign finance violation and that no further action was warranted," Kupec, the department spokeswoman, said.
The relevant agencies within the department concurred with the finding, and the matter has since been closed, Kupec added.