Less than 24 hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) formally ordered an impeachment inquiry amid reports that President Trump “pressured” Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden for his role in the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating his son, the Trump administration released the partial transcript of the phone call at the center of the latest scandal. Shortly after releasing the transcript, Trump made televised comments taunting the “fake news media” for overhyping the “call from hell,” which prompted an outcry from some reporters in the room.
“It’s the single greatest witch hunt in American history,” said Trump, adding that the current scandal is “a disgraceful thing.” Referencing “the letter,” by which he clarifies that he means the transcript of the call, Trump says its release was done “at the insistence of myself and other people that read it.”
“It was a friendly letter, there was no pressure,” he said. “The way you had that built up, that call, it was going to be the call from hell. It turned out to be a nothing call — other than a lot of people said, ‘I never knew you could be so nice.'”
“So, part of the problem you have is you have the fake news, you have a lot of corrupt reporting,” the president opined. “You have some very fine reporters and journalists, but you have a lot of corrupt reporters, a lot of corrupt journalists.”
“I would rake you right in there, by the way,” he said, gesturing to some in the room, a move that sparked loud pushback from reporters.
Trump then noted that the stock market plunged when the “nonsense” reached its peak Tuesday, but then “went up very substantially” when more details about the charge emerged, he said.
“We have created the greatest economy in the history of our country, the greatest economy in the world,” he declared. “If my opponent had won, China would right now be the number one economy by far.”
He went on to accuse the Democrats of only pushing impeachment because they fear that they’re going to lose in 2020.
Trump posted video of his comments on his Twitter feed:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 25, 2019
As The Daily Wire reported, the transcript released in a memorandum Wednesday includes Trump asking Zelesky if he can “look into” Biden’s role in forcing Ukraine to remove a prosecutor who was investigating his son.
“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 told Zelesky in the June 25 phone call. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”
Biden has publicly touted his role in pressuring Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees if they failed to remove him. Biden maintains that he forced the prosecutor’s removal because he was viewed as corrupt by many, but the same prosecutor was also investigating the company paying Biden’s son some $600,000 a year.
As The Daily Wire noted, before bringing up the issue of Biden, “Trump suggested his attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr would reach out to the Ukrainian president.” During the call, Trump also cited the role of cybersecurity company Crowdstrike in 2016 election interference.
A Department of Justice spokesperson has issued two statements in reference to the “call from hell,” one concerning Barr and the DOJ’s investigation into the alleged “counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election”:
The Attorney General was first notified of the President’s conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky several weeks after the call took place, when the Department of Justice learned of a potential referral. The President has not spoken with the Attorney General about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son. 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.
A Department of Justice team led by U.S. Attorney John Durham is separately exploring the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. While the Attorney General has yet to contact Ukraine in connection with this investigation, certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government have volunteered information to Mr. Durham, which he is evaluating.
A second DOJ statement addressed the “whistleblower” who sparked the controversy over the call and who was found by the intelligence community inspector general to have had “political bias” favoring “a rival candidate of the president.” The statement said 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.”