Today's Paper Search Latest Coronavirus Elections Core values App Listen Story ideas iPad Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive

WASHINGTON -- During their first phone call in April, Ukraine's incoming President Volodymyr Zelenskiy repeatedly asked President Donald Trump to attend his inauguration, according to a White House memorandum of the call released Friday.

"At a very minimum, we'll have a great representative," Trump says after the first invitation from Zelenskiy. The Ukrainian president then offers the invitation four more times, with Trump demurring each time, saying at one point, "We'll let you know very soon."

There is no talk of investigations into the Biden family or the 2016 election in the call, which lasted about 16 minutes and occurred from Air Force One on April 21, according to the White House memorandum of the conversation. At one point, Trump vaguely says "we'll have a lot of things to talk about" when the two men met.

The document -- which is not a verbatim transcript, but is instead based on the records of officials who listened to the call -- shows how determined the new administration in Kyiv was to secure a meeting with Trump.

State Department officials have testified that they tried for months to schedule a meeting between the two leaders, but they could not. They have blamed Trump's desire for the country to open investigations and his suspicion that Ukrainian officials were working against him in the 2016 presidential election.

[Document not appearing above? Click here to see it »]

The summary released Friday cast a spotlight on Trump's demands in the subsequent July 25 call between the two men and whether he used the promise of a face-to-face meeting as leverage. That pressure on a foreign leader, and whether it was used to attempt to benefit Trump personally, is at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry.

"There's no word that can describe our wonderful country. How nice, warm and friendly our people are, how tasty and delicious our food is, and how wonderful Ukraine is. Words cannot describe our country, so it would be best for you to see it yourself," Zelenskiy says, according to the memorandum.

Trump agreed with Zelenskiy's praise of the country while reflecting on his business career.

"When I owned Miss Universe, they always had great people," Trump says. "Ukraine was always very well represented."

Vice President Mike Pence was initially expected to attend the inauguration, but Trump instructed the vice president not to attend, The Washington Post has reported. Eventually, the White House delegation was led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Trump did tell Zelenskiy at one point, "We're with you all the way."

In the first call, Trump invited Zelenskiy to the Oval Office, and he immediately accepted. That visit was not scheduled for months.

The memorandum of the call does not match the White House readout of the call from April 21. The White House readout said the call underscored "the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity" -- presumably a reference to Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula. The readout also said Trump spoke with Zelenskiy about "reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity and root out corruption."

None of those topics are mentioned in the memorandum released Friday.

In releasing the memorandum, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president "took the unprecedented steps to declassify and release the transcripts of both of his phone calls with President Zelenskiy so that every American can see he did nothing wrong."

The White House released the summary just as the second open impeachment hearing got under way on Capitol Hill.

Much of the call was benign conversation between the two men. Zelenskiy joked that he would learn to speak English before their first meeting. "I could not do that in your language. I'm very impressed," Trump says.

At one point, Trump praises Zelenskiy for his "amazing" election win, and adds, "I guess, in a way, I did something similar. We're making tremendous progress in the U.S. -- we have the most tremendous economy ever."

A Section on 11/16/2019

Print Headline: Ukrainian eager to meet Trump, April memo shows


Sponsor Content

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with the Democrat-Gazette commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. The Democrat-Gazette commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.