On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, President Trump on Wednesday dismissed Democrats’ move to open an impeachment inquiry against him, denied that he pressured Ukraine’s leader to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and suggested that the White House should release even more records of his communications.
The July 25 call has been the subject of intense scrutiny since The Washington Post reported last week that a whistleblower had come forward with concerns about the matter.
Trump has acknowledged publicly that he asked Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son, who served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that came under scrutiny by authorities there.
A roundup of the day’s events:
● The White House released a rough transcript of the July call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Democrats say confirms the need for an impeachment inquiry.
● The document showed Trump offering the help of the U.S. attorney general to investigate Biden and promising Zelensky a White House meeting after he said he would conduct such an inquiry.
● House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement that the rough transcript proves Trump “has tried to make lawlessness a virtue in America and now is exporting it abroad.”
● Zelensky told reporters in New York that Trump did not push him to investigate Biden. “I think you read everything,” he said. “I think you read [the] text. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be involved to democratic, open elections, elections of U.S.A. … Nobody pushed me.”
● Trump denied that he urged Zelensky to investigate Biden. “In other words, no pressure,” he said.
● Trump later said the White House should make public the transcript of his first conversation with Zelensky in April, after the Ukranian president was elected.
5:10 p.m.: Trump suggests White House should release transcript of his first call with Zelensky
At his news conference late Wednesday afternoon, Trump suggested that the White House should make public the transcript of his first conversation with Zelensky, which was in April, after the Ukranian president was elected.
“I think you should ask for the first conversation also. … It was beautiful,” Trump said.
The president also said that Vice President Pence has had “one or two” conversations related to the matter and that information about those calls should be released, too.
“They were perfect,” Trump said. “They were all perfect.”
The president dismissed the notion that his actions amount to an impeachable offense.
“Impeachment for that?” Trump said. “When you have a wonderful meeting or a wonderful phone conversation? It was beautiful. It was a perfect conversation. I think you should ask for Vice President Pence’s conversation. Nothing was mentioned of anything of import.”
4:30 p.m.: Trump says he wants ‘transparency’ from Biden
In tweets shortly before he was scheduled to address reporters in New York, Trump said he had informed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and all House Republicans that he “fully” supports “transparency on so-called whistleblower information.” But he added that also wants “transparency from Joe Biden and his son Hunter, on the millions of dollars that have been quickly and easily taken out of Ukraine and China.”
“Additionally, I demand transparency from Democrats that went to Ukraine and attempted to force the new President to do things that they wanted under the form of political threat,” Trump said. It was not immediately clear which Democrats Trump was referencing, or what he meant by “political threat.”
Trump has acknowledged publicly that he asked Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son, who served on the board of a Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that came under scrutiny by authorities there.
Hunter Biden was not accused of any wrongdoing in the investigation. As vice president, Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, who Biden and other Western officials said was not sufficiently pursuing corruption cases. At the time, the Ukrainians’ investigation was dormant, according to former Ukrainian and U.S. officials.
4:05 p.m.: Castro defends Biden as ‘an honorable man’
One of Biden’s 2020 Democratic presidential rivals, Julián Castro, offered words of support for the former vice president at an event in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday afternoon.
“He and his family do not deserve these kind of baseless accusations from Donald Trump,” said Castro, who was the housing secretary in the Obama administration. “Donald Trump is trying to do to Joe Biden what he did to Hillary Clinton; to turn somebody who has given a lifetime of service, and done it honorably, into the victim of false accusations.”
At a Democratic debate this month, Castro had gone on the attack against Biden, accusing him of forgetting the details of his own health-care plan. But on Wednesday, he struck a different note.
“Joe Biden is an honorable man,” Castro said. “I think he’s an honest man and his family is honest. I have disagreements with Vice President Biden that I’ve made clear — on health care, on immigration, on other issues — but I don’t want to see this election decided by Donald Trump’s usual tearing down of other people with false accusations.”
— David Weigel
3:35 p.m.: On Wall Street, the fear is Trump’s trade policies, not impeachment
The market reaction to Pelosi’s announcement of an impeachment inquiry into Trump was a giant shrug. This is a political moment for the country, not an economic one, many analysts say.
Stocks fell a bit Tuesday as news of Pelosi’s decision broke, but the market rebounded Wednesday. On Wall Street, few think the process will lead to Trump’s removal from office. Pelosi appears to be inching closer to the votes for an impeachment in the House, but it looks highly unlikely at this point that two-thirds of the GOP-controlled Senate will go along with it.
“Markets have seen this impeachment movie before. So what if the House impeaches if the Senate will never remove the President from office? Markets are way more interested in a trade deal with China,” said Jamie Cox, managing partner at Harris Financial Group in Richmond.
Read more here.
— Heather Long
3:25 p.m.: Congress will receive whistleblower complaint today, lawmaker says
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, who until now had blocked Congress from seeing the whistleblower complaint that first brought the phone call between Trump and Zelensky to light, will provide that complaint to Congress today by 4 p.m., according to Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.
Lawmakers have demanded the whistleblower’s complaint be made available to them, both before and after seeing the White House’s readout of the call.
Nunes made the announcement while speaking on the House floor in defense of Trump.
“The media coverage and the Democrats’ hysterical and politicized response is reminiscent of countless episodes during the course of the Russia collusion hoax,” Nunes said. “That’s why Republicans look forward to actually reading the material on which the Democrats, from a position of ignorance, are basing their unrestrained accusations.”
3:10 p.m.: Congress ‘must pursue the facts,’ Biden says
Biden reacted to the White House release of a readout of the call between Trump and Zelensky, referring to it as an “abridged version that the White House was willing to issue to the public” and reiterating his call for the full whistleblower complaint about Trump’s conduct on the call be made available to Congress.
As the Biden statement came out, Trump was attacking Biden during a media availability at the United Nations with Zelensky, who seemed to be doing his best to stay out of the middle of this U.S. political scandal.
Biden, who has called for impeachment if the White House doesn’t cooperate with the House’s investigations, said that Congress “must pursue the facts and quickly take prompt action to hold Donald Trump accountable.”
“In the meantime, I will continue to focus my campaign not on how Donald Trump abused his power to come after my family, but on how he has turned his back on America’s families,” Biden said.
2:50 p.m.: ‘No pressure’ on Zelensky, Trump says, despite rough transcript of call
Trump told reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly that he did not pressure Zelensky on the July call. The president also strenuously defended the actions of his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who he said is “looking to find out where the phony witch hunt started.”
“Rudy Giuliani is a great lawyer,” Trump said. “He’s a great mayor. He’s highly respected. I’ve watched the passion that he’s had on television over the last few days.”
Trump began his highly-anticipated face-to-face meeting with Zelensky with a joke, noting that “he’s made me more famous, and I’ve made him more famous.”
Zelensky, a comedian before he was elected in April, also tried to keep the mood light by noting that “it’s better to be on TV than by phone.”
— Anne Gearan
2:20 p.m.: Cruz says Democrats are trying to ‘undo’ 2016 election
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) joined other Republicans in accusing Democrats of seeking to “undo” the results of the 2016 election through impeachment.
But if Trump were removed from office, it would not result in a Democrat taking his place. Instead, Vice President Pence would be in line to become president.
“Since the day President Trump was elected, congressional Democrats have been working to find any reason under the sun to impeach the president and undo the results of the last election,” Cruz said. “First, it was Mueller, then the Mueller report found no collusion. Now it’s Ukraine. Next month, it will be something else.”
2 p.m.: Pelosi privately urges narrow Trump impeachment probe focused on Ukraine
Pelosi urged fellow Democratic leaders in a private meeting to keep the impeachment investigation narrowly focused on Trump and his dealings with the president of Ukraine, according to five Democrats familiar with the conversation.
The closed-door meeting took place hours after the White House released a rough transcript of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky in which Trump pressed Zelensky to work with Attorney General William P. Barr and Giuliani to investigate Biden.
Inside the room, Democrats said, Pelosi told colleagues that keeping the inquiry narrowly focused on the Ukraine allegations could help keep the investigation out of the courts, where a slew of investigative matters have been bogged down for months — though she did not rule out ultimately including other episodes in a potential impeachment package.
Read more here.
— Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade
1:20 p.m.: White House mistakenly sends Trump-Ukraine talking points to Democrats
In the hours after the release Wednesday of the rough transcript of Trump’s July phone call with Zelensky, the White House circulated an email with proposed talking points for Trump’s defenders.
Unfortunately for the White House, the email was mistakenly sent to not only Republicans but also Democratic lawmakers and their staff.
The message, titled, “What You Need To Know: President Trump’s Call with President Zelensky,” was quickly recalled — but not before Democrats took to Twitter to ridicule the White House over the error.
Read more here.
1:15 p.m.: Trump calls House impeachment inquiry a “manufactured crisis”
Trump called the House impeachment inquiry a “manufactured crisis” Wednesday afternoon and said it undermines the ability of Democrats to make progress on trade deals and gun legislation.
“I don’t think they can do any deals. All they’re talking about is nonsense,” Trump said at a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
“She’s wasting her time on … a manufactured crisis,” Trump said of Pelosi.
1 p.m.: Democratic chairmen says no “quid pro quo” is required for wrongdoing
A joint statement issued Wednesday afternoon by four Democratic committee chairmen sought to push back on Trump’s argument that he had done nothing wrong because his request for Zelensky to investigate the Bidens was not linked to U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
“Let’s be clear: no quid pro quo is required to betray our country,” the statement said. “Trump asked a foreign government to interfere in our elections — that is betrayal enough. The corruption exists whether or not Trump threatened — explicitly or implicitly — that a lack of cooperation could result in withholding military aid.”
The statement was issued by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (Md.) and Foreign Relations Chairman Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.).
12:45 p.m.: Impeachment inquiry threatens to overtake Capitol, upend trade and spending talks
House Democrats’ new impeachment inquiry threatens to overtake Capitol Hill and chill legislating on other fronts, deepening partisan divisions and mistrust between lawmakers and administration officials who’ve already struggled to secure deals on spending and trade.
Trump’s top agenda item, a rewrite of the 1994 trade deal between Mexico, Canada and the United States, could be the first victim.
The formal impeachment inquiry, announced Tuesday, will test whether congressional Democrats and the White House can attempt to continue governing on other matters. Numerous Republicans have said the impeachment inquiry changes everything.
Democrats are trying to forge ahead, multitasking on trade and budget talks while also preparing for impeachment.
Read more here.
— Erica Werner and David J. Lynch
12:30 p.m.: Some Senate Republicans question White House’s judgment
Several Senate Republicans were stunned Wednesday and questioned the White House’s judgment after it released a rough transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president.
One Senate Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly, said the transcript’s release was a “huge mistake” that the GOP now has to confront, even as Republicans argue that House Democrats are overreaching with their impeachment effort.
A top Senate GOP aide said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expecting Wednesday’s closed-door lunch to be eventful and possibly tense as Republicans react to the transcript and debate their next step.
“It remains troubling in the extreme. It’s deeply troubling,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters Wednesday, when asked about the transcript.
Read more here.
— Robert Costa
12:15 p.m.: Schiff says rough transcript reveals “mafia-like shakedown”
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said the rough transcript reveals “a classic mafia-like shakedown of a foreign leader.”
Schiff said Zelensky’s statements in the rough transcript “reflect a Ukrainian president who was desperate for U.S. support.” Trump, he said, was eager to leverage that situation.
“This is how a mafia boss talks. … ‘I have a favor I want to ask you,’ ” Schiff said. And the favor, “of course, is to investigate his political rival,” he added.
He also took aim at Trump’s mentions of Barr in the call.
The fact that Trump would invoke the attorney general, Schiff said, sends a message to the Ukrainian president that “this is the United States government asking, and we plan to effectuate that through the Department of Justice.”
12:05 p.m.: Pelosi says rough transcript confirms need for impeachment inquiry, questions whether Trump cares about ethics
Pelosi said in a statement that the rough transcript confirms the need for an impeachment inquiry of a president who, she said, “has tried to make lawlessness a virtue in America and now is exporting it abroad.”
“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.
The California Democrat said that she respects Trump’s responsibility to engage with foreign leaders.
But, she said, “It is not part of his job to use taxpayer money to shake down other countries for the benefit of his campaign. Either the President does not know the weight of his words or he does not care about ethics or his constitutional responsibilities.”
Pelosi also accused the Justice Department of “acting in a rogue fashion” and being “complicit in the President’s lawlessness.”
12 p.m.: Trump-Zelensky call shows lengths to which foreign leaders go to flatter Trump
The rough transcript of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky provides evidence of Trump asking the Ukrainian president to investigate the conduct of Biden and his son Hunter.
But it also reveals the lengths to which foreign leaders will go in their private conversations with Trump to flatter the president to win his favor.
Zelensky, who was elected in April, lavishes praise on Trump in four distinct ways in the July phone call.
Most significantly, Zelensky mentioned that he stayed at one of Trump’s properties.
“Actually, last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near Central Park, and I stayed at the Trump Tower,” Zelensky told Trump, according to the rough transcript.
Read more here.
11:30 a.m.: Hoyer says House focus will be on Ukraine matter
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) called the rough transcript “pretty damning” and told reporters Wednesday morning that Democrats would focus on it.
“We are going to focus on this particular matter,” Hoyer said, adding that it’s “not hard to understand.”
As they move forward with an impeachment inquiry, House Democrats have been in talks about how narrowly to focus on the Ukraine matter vs. material from an array of other investigations.
Holding up a copy of the rough transcript, Hoyer said, “Even that which is in this document is pretty damning. … These are very serious national security issues.”
Hoyer added that there are no plans to cancel an upcoming two-week recess because it is important for members to have time to explain to constituents what happened in the Ukraine matter.
Earlier Wednesday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said the rough transcript confirmed “several things.”
“The President, Donald Trump, clearly pressured the Ukrainian president to commence an investigation of the Biden family to dig up political dirt in order to bolster the president’s electoral prospects in 2020,” Jeffries said. “That is textbook abuse of power, and the transcripts have become Exhibit A in that regard.”
— Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis
11:20 a.m.: Nadler says Barr should recuse himself from Ukraine matter
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) demanded Wednesday that Attorney General William P. Barr recuse himself from further involvement in the Ukraine matter, citing his mention in the rough transcript.
The document shows that Trump urged Ukraine’s leader to contact Barr about opening an inquiry tied to Biden.
“The President dragged the Attorney General into this mess. At a minimum, AG Barr must recuse himself until we get to the bottom of this matter,” Nadler tweeted.
— Mike DeBonis
11:15 a.m.: Democratic presidential candidates pounce on release of rough transcript
Several Democratic presidential candidates pounced on the release of the rough transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky, saying it bolstered the case for the president’s impeachment.
“This ‘transcript’ itself is a smoking gun,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said on Twitter. “If this is the version of events the president’s team thinks is most favorable, he is in very deep jeopardy. We need to see the full whistleblower complaint and the administration needs to follow the law. Now.”
Former Obama Cabinet secretary Julián Castro also called the rough transcript a “smoking gun.”
“Donald Trump pressured a foreign government to work with his Justice Department to investigate a political opponent. Congress should cancel recess and begin impeachment proceedings immediately,” Castro said on Twitter.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), meanwhile, said the document amounted to an admission on the part of Trump.
“Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to work with the U.S. Attorney General to investigate a political opponent. He must be impeached,” she tweeted.
Billionaire activist Tom Steyer said the rough transcript showed Trump is “a traitor,” while former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) said it showed Trump is “unfit for office and needs to be impeached.”
10:40 a.m.: Schumer says he strongly supports House impeachment inquiry
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that he strongly supports Pelosi’s decision to move forward with a formal impeachment inquiry.
“The president’s conduct made an impeachment inquiry unavoidable,” Schumer said during remarks on the Senate floor. “The events of recent days have brought sharply into focus the question of whether President Trump abused the powers of his office and betrayed the public trust for personal and political gain.”
10:40 a.m.: Trump calls on Democrats to apologize
Shortly after the rough transcript was publicly released, Trump went on Twitter to call on Democrats to apologize.
“Will the Democrats apologize after seeing what was said on the call with the Ukrainian President?” he wrote. “They should, a perfect call — got them by surprise!”
Trump also tweeted a clip of a younger Pelosi speaking on the House floor about how unfairly Republicans were treating then-President Bill Clinton during his impeachment.
Shortly afterward, speaking to reporters in New York, he continued to insist he is the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt in American history.”
“It’s a disgraceful thing,” Trump said. “The letter was a great letter, meaning the letter revealing the call.”
He claimed the rough transcript showed he put “no pressure” on Zelensky.
While Democrats had suggested he had a “call from hell,” Trump said, it instead “turned out to be a nothing call.”
10:30 a.m.: “Is it out?” House Republican leaders were unaware rough transcript was released
House Republican leaders were apparently caught unawares that the White House released the rough transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky.
At their weekly news conference, which began at 10 a.m., House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and others stuck largely to talking points that were the same as those they used on Tuesday — keeping the focus on Biden and Pelosi.
“No one has read this transcript,” McCarthy said at one point, chastising a reporter.
At another point, McCarthy said, “When this transcript comes out …”
After reporters and others in the room clarified that the rough transcript had already been released, McCarthy responded, “Is it out?”
Shortly afterward, House Republican leaders wrapped up the news conference.
10:15 a.m.: Hillary Clinton says Trump has “betrayed our country”
Shortly after the rough transcript was released, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee defeated by Trump in 2016, took to Twitter to offer her support for impeachment.
“The president of the United States has betrayed our country,” she wrote. “That’s not a political statement — it’s a harsh reality, and we must act. He is a clear and present danger to the things that keep us strong and free. I support impeachment.”
10:15 a.m.: McConnell accuses House Democrats of rushing to judgment
In remarks shortly after the rough transcript was released, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused House Democrats of having an “impeachment addiction.”
“While our friends across the Capitol rush to judgment and dive deeper into their nearly three-year-old impeachment addiction, we’ll stay focused on the American people’s business,” McConnell said during remarks of the Senate floor.
10 a.m.: Rough transcript shows Trump offering U.S. assistance to Zelensky for Biden investigation
Trump told Zelensky to work with the U.S. attorney general to investigate Biden’s conduct and offered to meet with the leader of Ukraine at the White House after he promised to conduct such an inquiry, according to a newly released rough transcript of the call.
Those statements and others in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky were so concerning that the intelligence community inspector general thought them a possible violation of campaign finance law. In late August, intelligence officials referred the matter to the Justice Department as a possible crime, but prosecutors concluded last week that the conduct was not criminal, according to senior Justice Department officials.
The administration’s disclosures underscore how the president’s phone call has consumed the federal government in recent days, and how the White House is scrambling to defuse the situation by offering more details of what the president said.
On Wednesday, the administration released a White House rough transcript of the call and detailed behind-the-scenes discussions about how to handle the accusations.
Read more here.
— Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey
9:30 a.m.: Number of House members supporting impeachment inquiry swells to 200
The number of House members who say they support at least opening an impeachment inquiry into Trump has swelled to 200, a figure that includes 199 Democrats and Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), a former Republican who recently left the party, according to an updated Washington Post tally.
In just the past two days, the number has grown by 60, with many members tying their decisions to Trump’s call with Zelensky.
Twenty-two of the 24 Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the impeachment inquiry, have expressed public support for the move.
Read more here.
— JM Reiger
9:15 a.m.: House to vote Wednesday afternoon to condemn administration for withholding whistleblower complaint
The House plans to vote Wednesday afternoon on a resolution condemning the administration’s efforts to block the release of the whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump’s promise to a foreign leader constituted an “urgent concern” to national security.
Acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to share the complaint from a U.S. intelligence official in what Democrats say is a clear violation of the law.
Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, reviewed the complaint and determined that it was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern,” a legal threshold that requires notification of congressional oversight committees.
“We hope that all Members of the House — Democrats and Republicans alike — will join in upholding the rule of law and oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution as Representatives of the American people,” Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a joint statement.
In a rare, albeit subtle protest from the GOP-led Senate, lawmakers adopted a resolution on Tuesday calling for the White House to turn over the complaint to the intelligence committees, as is required under law.
8:30 a.m.: Giuliani says the rough transcript was read to him
Giuliani said Wednesday morning that the rough transcript had been read to him, an acknowledgment that prompted protests from Democratic members of Congress who had yet to review the document.
During an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” in which he defended Trump and attacked Biden, Giuliani was asked if he had seen the rough transcript.
“Let’s say it was read to me,” he replied.
“The whole thing?” asked co-host Brian Kilmeade.
“I hope,” Giuliani replied.
Democrats, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), argued that Giuliani, who doesn’t hold a government position, should not have had an opportunity to review the rough transcript before they did.
7:25 a.m.: Trump complains again about Democrats “frozen with hatred and fear”
Trump went on Twitter early Wednesday to complain about continued Democratic scrutiny of his actions.
“There has been no President in the history of our Country who has been treated so badly as I have,” he wrote. “The Democrats are frozen with hatred and fear. They get nothing done. This should never be allowed to happen to another President. Witch Hunt!”
Trump’s salvo followed several tweets on Tuesday night in which he shared video clips of friendly commentators arguing that he is being treated unfairly.
6:40 a.m.: New poll shows limited support for impeachment
Amid a groundswell of support for impeachment proceedings among House Democrats, a new poll finds a majority of Americans do not favor ousting Trump from office.
Thirty-seven percent of voters say that Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 57 percent say he should not be impeached, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday morning.
The poll was conducted from Thursday through Monday, as details were emerging about Trump’s call with Zelensky.
The poll shows a stark partisan divide on the question of impeachment. Among Democrats, 73 percent support impeachment, while 21 percent are opposed. Among Republicans, only 4 percent support impeachment, while 95 percent are opposed.
Read more here.
5 a.m.: Giuliani pursued shadow Ukraine agenda as key foreign policy officials were sidelined
Trump’s attempt to pressure the leader of Ukraine followed a months-long fight inside the administration that sidelined national security officials and empowered political loyalists — including the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani — to exploit the U.S. relationship with Kiev, current and former U.S. officials said.
The sequence, which began early this year, involved the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the circumvention of senior officials on the National Security Council, and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid administered by the Defense and State departments — all as key officials from these agencies struggled to piece together Giuliani’s activities from news reports.
Several officials described tense meetings on Ukraine among national security officials at the White House leading up to the president’s phone call on July 25, sessions that led some participants to fear that Trump and those close to him appeared prepared to use U.S. leverage with the new leader of Ukraine for Trump’s political gain.
Read more here.
— Greg Miller, Josh Dawsey, Paul Sonne and Ellen Nakashima