The Latest on Trump’s Ukraine Call, Democrats’ Impeachment Inquiry

(Bloomberg) — House Democrats have launched an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump over his interactions with a foreign leader. The proceedings threaten to slow work in Washington on other crucial policy matters and overshadow the 2020 election. The White House Wednesday released a rough transcript of a call between the president and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that is at the center of the controversy.

Read more: White House releases rough transcript of Trump July call with Zelenskiy

Here are the latest developments:

Trump Called GOP Allies From New York (1:40 p.m.)

White House counsel convened a meeting with six Republican senators and House members at 8 a.m. on Wednesday to review and discuss talking points before the public release of the transcript of Trump’s call with Zelenskiy, according to Senator Ron Johnson, who attended the meeting.

About 30 minutes into the meeting, Trump phoned in from New York — where he’s attending the United Nations General Assembly — to tell the lawmakers that there wasn’t anything improper about his call with Zelenskiy.

“We certainly saw no quid pro quo,” Johnson said. Instead, the transcript showed Trump was “very gracious” with the Ukrainian leader, the Wisconsin Republican added.

Others present included Senators Jim Risch of Idaho, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, David Perdue of Georgia, and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota; as well as Representatives Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Devin Nunes of California, John Ratcliffe of Texas, and Matt Gaetz of Florida.

White House Talking Points Sent to Democrats (1:12 p.m.)

The White House on Wednesday sent congressional Democrats a helpful list of “Myth” versus “Fact” talking points about Trump’s call with Zelenskiy, according to a copy of the email obtained by Bloomberg.

That’s right — the talking points went to impeachment-focused Democrats, not Trump-supporting Republicans. The recipients included rank-and-file moderates from House districts where Trump is popular, as well as the leaders of committees investigating the president’s activities.

The talking points make several arguments:

There was no “quid pro quo” dangled for Ukraine to get U.S. military aid in exchange for investigating former Vice President Joe Biden or his son.The president’s statements were was “entirely proper” — and he didn’t even mention Rudy Giuliani until after Zelenskiy brought his name up first.The whistle-blower complaint was handled “absolutely by the book” and officials properly determined that no further action should be taken. — Billy House

Schiff Compares Trump in Call to ‘Mafia Boss’ (12:31 p.m.)

Democrat Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump attempted to “shake down” the Ukrainian president to prompt an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.Republicans have defended Trump by arguing there was no quid pro quo sought during the conversation, but Schiff said the U.S. was withholding military aid and Ukrainian officials “understood exactly what was being asked of them.”“Like any Mafia boss, the president did not need to say what a nice country you have, it would be a shame if anything happened to it,” Schiff said at a news conference. “Here we have the president of the United States engaged in a shake-down of a foreign president.” — Billy House

Pelosi Says Call Shows Need for Impeachment Inquiry (12:15 p.m.)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the rough transcript of the Trump-Zelenskiy call confirms the need for an impeachment inquiry.

“The release of the notes of the call by the White House confirms that the president engaged in behavior that undermines the integrity of our elections, the dignity of the office he holds and our national security,” Pelosi said in a statement. — Billy House

Transcription Used Voice Recognition Software (11:58 a.m.)

The Trump-Zelenskiy transcript was developed with assistance from voice recognition software along with note takers and other experts who were listening, according to a White House official.

The transcript didn’t say whether Zelenskiy spoke in English or Ukrainian.

There are ellipses in parts of the document, which the official said doesn’t indicate missing words or phrases. Instead, it represents a voice trailing off or a pause, the official said.

The transcript itself includes a cautionary note: It’s not a verbatim transcription. Instead, it “records the notes and recollections” of those assigned to listen and write it. “A number of factors can affect the accuracy of the record, including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent and/or interpretation,” according to the note.

Justice Says Complaint on Call Is Secondhand (11 a.m.)

The whistle-blower report on Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine is based on secondhand reports from unnamed “White House officials,” according to a just-released Justice Department opinion.

The indirect nature of the information could suggest that the whistle-blower report, if turned over to Congress, would not reveal much beyond what is in the transcript released Wednesday.

“The complainant alleged that he or she had heard reports from ‘White House officials’ that, in the course of a routine diplomatic communication between the president and a foreign leader, the president had made statements that the complainant viewed as seeking to pressure that leader to take an official action to help the president’s 2020 re-election campaign,” Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel said. “Having heard about the president’s reported statements, the complainant expressed an intent to report this information to the intelligence committees.”

Engel, who heads the Office of Legal Counsel, told the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that the whistle-blower report did not have to be submitted to Congress because it related to the conduct of the president, and not intelligence agencies. Congressional Democrats disagree and say the Inspector General Act requires it to be turned over. — Gregory Korte

Romney Says Transcript Underscores Concerns (10:50 a.m.)

Senator Mitt Romney said the transcript of the Trump-Zelenskiy call underscored concerns he raised earlier about the president’s comments.

“I remain deeply troubled,” the Utah Republican said after release of the transcript. He wouldn’t say whether Trump’s actions were an abuse of power or an impeachable offense. — Steven Dennis

Zelenskiy Mentioned Trump Tower Stay (10:45 a.m.)

The rough transcript of the July phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy offers an example of how foreign governments use stays at Trump properties to ingratiate themselves with the U.S. president.

Before Zelenskiy got off the phone, he made a point of dropping in his accommodation arrangements during a recent visit.

“Actually last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near Central Park and I stayed at the Trump Tower,” Zelenskiy said, according to the transcript.

Critics of the president have filed lawsuits pressing the case that Trump’s decision to keep his stakes in his global business, the Trump Organization, raised the question of whether he is violating what’s known as the “emoluments clause” of the Constitution. — Mike Dorning

House Panel Seeks Whistle-Blower Complaint (10:30 a.m.)

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff asked Attorney General William Barr to turn over any Justice Department legal opinion on a contentious whistle-blower complaint by Friday.

In a letter to Barr, the California Democrat also is requesting any information on FBI action pertaining to the “underlying conduct of the complaint,” and all DOJ communications with the White House related to the complaint, by Oct. 1.

He argues that the law requires the complaint be turned over to congressional intelligence committees. — Billy House

Ukrainian Leader Addresses UN Amid U.S. Furor (10:15 a.m.)

The Ukrainian leader at the center of the latest crisis facing Trump was the first speaker at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy focused his 15-minute speech on Ukraine’s continuing conflict with Russia, saying his country’s citizens are still paying the price for Moscow’s support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Zelenskiy renewed calls for international support to confront Moscow. U.S. aid for Ukraine’s fight with Russia was at the heart of the almost $400 million package Trump said he held up before speaking with Zelenskiy in July. At one point the 41-year-old president held up a bullet that he said was similar to the one which killed a popular opera singer — one of 13,000 Ukrainians killed so far — who volunteered to fight Russian separatists.

Ukraine “keeps losing its citizens,” he said, citing 13,000 killed and 1.5 million displaced. “Every year these figures are growing.” — Daryna Krasnolutska

Trump-Call Summary Set for Release (9:20 a.m.)

A rough transcript of President Donald Trump’s July 25 call with his Ukrainian counterpart is expected to be released Wednesday as the nation awaits the next steps in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to launch a formal impeachment inquiry that may determine whether the president heads into re-election damaged or emboldened.

Trump is also expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in person on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly before holding a news conference Wednesday, as the investigation gets underway into whether Trump leaned on Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

U.S. stocks rose amid mixed reactions to the prospect of an impeachment investigation and news China is preparing to buy more U.S. pork. In notes to clients, Wall Street analysts compared the events to proceedings against Bill Clinton in the 1990s, which failed to topple a popular president. Other events had more of a market impact then, and might now, too.

Key Events

Pelosi on Tuesday said the House would begin an official impeachment inquiry stemming from a complaint from a whistle-blower in the intelligence community over Trump’s interaction with a foreign leader.Trump’s private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told Fox News on Wednesday morning that the president didn’t mention military aid or any “quid pro quo” during his call with Zelenskiy. Giuliani said he hadn’t seen a transcript of the call but “let’s say it was read to me.”The House plans to vote Wednesday on a resolution pressuring the intelligence community to release details of the whistle-blower complaint.The House and Senate Intelligence committees are set to question Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire this week about the whistle-blower complaint. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence panel, said the whistle-blower’s lawyer told them his client would like to speak to the committee.

–With assistance from Daryna Krasnolutska, Bill Faries, Justin Sink, Mike Dorning, Steven T. Dennis, Gregory Korte and Billy House.

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