Trump releases earlier call, showing Ukraine president was eager to meet

On Friday morning, as the second day of public impeachment hearings began, the White House released a summary of a second, earlier, conversation between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. While Trump has suggested the document would help clear him in the ongoing impeachment proceedings, it simply showed how eager Zelensky was to meet the American president, which actually could bolster the case that a White House meeting was part of a quid pro quo for the investigations the Trump administration sought from Ukraine.

According to the White House, the conversation between Trump and Zelensky took place on April 21, the day Zelensky was elected, about three months before the July 25 phone call that was flagged by an intelligence community whistleblower.

“I’d like to congratulate you on a job well done, and congratulations on a fantastic election,” Trump said, according to the document released by the White House.

“Good to hear from you. Thank you so very much,” Zelensky responded.

Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, read extensively from the April call record in his opening statement before the testimony of Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.

According to a summary of the earlier  discussion that was released by the White House, Trump urged the Ukrainian president to work with his allies, Attorney General Bill Barr and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, to investigate the dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden in Ukraine. Biden’s son,  Hunter, was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. 

That July call between Trump and Zelensky is central to the ongoing impeachment hearings, which are focused on allegations that Trump pressured the Ukrainian leader to investigate Biden, who is running for president in the upcoming election. Trump has repeatedly maintained his July  call with Zelensky was “perfect” and suggested the release of this second discussion would bolster his case.

"They want to have a transcript of the other call, the second call [actually the earlier one] and I'm willing to provide that," Trump said to reporters on Nov. 9. The document released Friday was a memorandum of the call, not a verbatim transcript.

The earlier call with Zelensky is not central impeachment hearings. American presidents routinely call foreign leaders following their elections and the transcript of the prior call shows Trump doing that.

However, the call does show how eager Zelensky was to meet with the American president. The impeachment hearings are investigating whether Trump held out the possibility of a White House meeting as an inducement for the Ukrainians to investigate Biden, and withheld military aid as a form of pressure. In the April phone conversation,  Zelensky said he would like to “invite” Trump “if it’s possible” to Ukraine. 

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Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky
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Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky
In this photo dated Feb. 6, 2019, Ukrainian comedian, Volodymyr Zelenskiy seen during the shooting of a popular TV series, where he plays the president during the filming in Kiev, Ukraine. Zelenskiy played the president and now is running for the same office in upcoming presidential elections on March 31.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukrainian actor and candidate in the upcoming presidential election, hosts a comedy show at a concert hall in Brovary, Ukraine, Friday, March 29, 2019. Zelenskiy now surging ahead of both Tymoshenko and Poroshenko in the presidential context according to polls. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian presidential candidate and popular comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy listens to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during their final electoral campaign debate at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019. Friday is the last official day of election canvassing in Ukraine as all presidential candidates and their campaigns will be barred from campaigning on Saturday, the day before the vote. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy, holds his ballot before voting at a polling station, during the presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, March. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Ukrainian presidential candidate and popular comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy makes the victory sign during the debate with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019. Friday is the last official day of election canvassing in Ukraine as all presidential candidates and their campaigns will be barred from campaigning on Saturday, the day before the vote. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and his wife Olena Zelenska smile as they greet supporters at his headquarters after the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Ukrainians voted on Sunday in a presidential runoff as the nation's incumbent leader struggles to fend off a strong challenge by a comedian who denounces corruption and plays the role of president in a TV sitcom. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy shows his ballot before casting his ballot at a polling station, during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and his wife Olena Zelenska congratulate each other at his headquarters after the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Ukrainians voted on Sunday in a presidential runoff as the nation's incumbent leader struggles to fend off a strong challenge by a comedian who denounces corruption and plays the role of president in a TV sitcom. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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He said the president would also enjoy “how tasty and delicious” Ukrainian food is. 

“Well that’s very nice. I’ll look into that,” Trump said.

The summary of the earlier July 25 call was released by the White House in September, the day after Democrats announced an impeachment inquiry. That document, which was also not a verbatim transcript, shows Trump encouraging Zelensky to talk with his allies about a potential Biden probe.

Trump has repeatedly suggested the “transcript” of his “perfect” call with Zelensky showed him behaving properly. The president also implied the earlier call would be exonerating.

In a series of tweets posted in the early hours of  Friday morning, Trump suggested Ukrainian officials made clear that American financial assistance was not linked to an investigation of Biden.

“Democrats must apologize to USA,” Trump wrote. 

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