On the morning of Thursday July 25 of this year, President Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke by telephone for half an hour (9:03—9:33 am EDT).
Speculation and allegations regarding the content of that conversation apparently prompted a government whistleblower to file an “urgent concern” alleging abuse by President Trump. The informant claims President Trump is using his office to seek interference by a foreign country (Ukraine) in the 2020 presidential election.
Both the whistleblower complaint and the Trump-Zelensky telephone transcript have been released. The combination has prompted the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives to launch official impeachment procedures against President Trump.
I have read both documents and here is what I know:
The transcript of the conversation is a compilation of notes from those assigned to listen to the call, to take notes then share their recollections and impressions. The listeners apparently try to reach a consensus on the official transcript.
There is no indication whether both Trump and Zelensky spoke English or whether there were interpreters present for both leaders. The latter certainly would have necessitated further clarification and deliberation for the final document.
The final transcript is not a verbatim regurgitation and apparently no actual electronic recording exists of the conversation. My sources say this procedure has been standard practice since the 1970s.
President Trump does ask President Zelensky to look into the Crowdstrike matter. This refers to the U.S. cyber security company that investigated the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) by foreign operatives during the 2016 American presidential campaign. Trump implies that the hackers were in Ukraine and he suggests that U.S. Attorney General William Barr work with Ukraine’s counterpart to investigate.
The Ukraine leader acknowledges his desire for improved relations between the two countries and expresses hopes for a meeting with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Mr. Trump expresses disappointment that Ukraine’s prosecution of alleged corruption involving a U.S. company there was stopped. Trump implies but never specifically mentions that former Vice President Joe Biden applied pressure against the Ukraine prosecutor because Biden’s son, Hunter, sat on the board of directors of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings that was under investigation.
Zelensky pledges that his new government will have a new prosecutor and will look into the company.
Although President Trump says he will have both Attorney General William Barr and Rudy Giuliani work with Zelensky and his government on the investigation, subsequent contacts involving all officials apparently never took place.
The unidentified whistleblower acknowledges that his allegations are hearsay—based solely on secondhand information from sources purportedly privy to the US-Ukraine phone call and related discussions. He, himself, never heard the conversation.
In other words, these are rumors with no factual foundation.
While it is possible that his sources, who he claims heard the telephone conversation, perceived that there was a specific quid pro quo requested by President Trump, the transcript of that call does not support that.
The whistleblower claims that electronic transcript of the phone call was removed from the usual “customary” computer systems and transferred to another system used for more sensitive content. The implication is that nefarious forces prompted this action.
But he also concedes that although one of his sources labeled this as abuse, the whistleblower himself doesn’t know if similar steps were taken with the other notes on the conversation.
Later he further acknowledges that Mr. Giuliani reportedly traveled to Spain to meet with President Zelensky’s advisers but doesn’t know if the meetings actually occurred.
Conclusion and Prediction
The House of Representatives—based on these two documents—now begins an official impeachment investigation.
In order for this to be an honest attempt to arrive at the truth regarding the allegations, the House must do the following:
1—Identify and invite or subpoena those members of the administration who listened to the telephone conversation and participated in the subsequent exchange of notes and/or conversations that resulted in the final draft.
What information in the notes was excluded and why? Who was satisfied with the final document and who was not? Why?
2—Identify and invite or subpoena those members of the administration who allegedly were privy to the telephone conversation, were not part of the subsequent discussions debating the final draft, but nevertheless expressed concern. What was their concern and why? What steps did those officials take other than share their feelings with the whistleblower?
3—What agenda might these purported sources have that prompted them to express their concerns to the whistleblower? Are they persons who believe that their views on other administration policy decision have been disregarded? Are they former employees or colleagues of President Trump opponents, e.g. democratic representatives, senators or party leaders? Or do they simply dislike President Trump?
4—Both administration supporters and opponents who have knowledge of these events must be given equal opportunity to state their case.
Only after the House of Representatives has taken every possible fair, honest, balanced, non-partisan steps to seek the truth, can members be of the lower chamber render a judgment that Americans can believe is just.
I hope this is what happens.
But my observations of our contemporary bitter partisan rivalry both in Congress and across our nation give me no confidence that this will be honest, fair or just.