President Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to “look into” Joe Biden during a July phone call, and said that he would ask Attorney General William Barr to reach out to Ukrainian officials about the former vice president’s alleged corruption, according to a transcript of the call released by the White House on Wednesday.
“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 Zelensky. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it . . . it sounds horrible to me.”
Trump went on to say that he would direct Barr to reach out to Zelensky’s staff to coordinate an investigation, adding, “I’m sure you will figure it out.” But Trump never directed Barr to reach out to the Ukrainians, a Department of Justice spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal.
The transcript, which congressional Democrats pressured the White House to release, confirms previous reports that Trump repeatedly asked Zelensky to investigate allegations that Biden leveraged his influence as vice president to quash an investigation into a Ukrainian energy company that had recently appointed his son, Hunter, to its board of directors.
Trump confirmed on Tuesday that he withheld roughly $400 million in congressionally mandated military aid to Ukraine in the week leading up to his call with Zelensky, prompting speculation that he’d leveraged the aid to coerce Zelensky into opening an investigation of Biden.
The specter of the as-yet-unproven quid pro quo arrangement prompted House speaker Nancy Pelosi to announce the opening of a formal impeachment inquiry on Tuesday afternoon. The intelligence-community whistleblower who first raised an alarm about the July phone call is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, and the White House has reportedly authorized the release of his original complaint to the House and Senate intelligence committees.