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Trump says transcript of Ukraine conversation to be released

(Mary Altaffer | AP) U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to address the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he will release the transcript of his July phone call with the Ukrainian president in an effort to quell the controversy over whether he pressed for Kyiv to investigate a political rival.

Trump insisted that the call was “totally appropriate” and pledged to release its full text Wednesday.

“I am currently at the United Nations representing our Country, but have authorized the release tomorrow of the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript of my phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine,” he wrote on Twitter. “You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call. No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo! This is nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!”

While the July transcript will answer some questions, the call is only one aspect of Trump’s dealings with the Ukrainians that have come under scrutiny in recent days. A whistleblower complaint that the administration has blocked lawmakers from seeing is said to deal at least in part with Ukraine and cover multiple actions.

Trump said earlier that he held up U.S. aid to Ukraine that has become the subject of scrutiny because European countries have not paid their fair share to support the country, and pointed to the fact that the money was eventually released as evidence that he had done nothing wrong.

The funds were frozen before Trump pressed the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate a leading Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden.

He also said that a groundswell for his impeachment among Democratic lawmakers amounted to a new “witch hunt.”

“I’m leading in the polls and they have no idea how to stop me,” Trump said, addressing reporters minutes before his annual address to the U.N. General Assembly. The president trails the leading Democratic candidates in most polls. “The only way they can try is through impeachment,” he added.

The $391 million aid package in question was provided to Ukraine for its defense against a Russian-backed separatist insurgency in its east which has left more than 13,000 people dead over the past five years.

Trump also noted that the funds allocated for Ukraine “were fully paid,” although he did not mention the fact that his administration acted only after the delay became public through news media leaks, and under bipartisan pressure from Congress.

He also did not mention that he had changed his explanation for withholding the money from just a day before. On Monday, he linked his decision to block the aid to his concerns about corruption in Ukraine, citing Biden as an example. By emphasizing instead his overall concern about foreign aid, he was advancing a rationale less tied to his demand for an investigation.

Trump earlier repeated his assertion that the transcript would exonerate him.

“When you see the call, when you see the readout of the call, which I assume you’ll see at some point, you’ll understand that call was perfect,” he said.


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