As the White House prepared to release a summary of President Donald Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, administration sources told reporters there wouldn’t be much there.
They were wrong.
The summary, released this morning, is a wild look into the president’s mind-set and approach to his job. It shows a commander in chief consumed by conspiracy theories, strong-arming a foreign government to help him politically, and marshaling the federal government in his schemes.
Earlier this week, Trump said that his call with Zelensky “was largely congratulatory,” but the account of the call tells a different story. (It’s worth noting that it’s unclear how the account of the conversation was constructed—whether it was transcribed in real time or taped—nor is it possible to independently verify its accuracy. A note at the bottom cautions that it “is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion.”) Trump congratulates Zelensky on his election, and then begins to complain that Germany isn’t contributing enough money to Ukraine. (Trump yesterday cited supposedly weak European support as a justification for freezing U.S. aid for months.)
Then comes the really crazy stuff. Trump begins speaking about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election:
I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you said yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.
It’s difficult to puzzle out quite what Trump is talking about. The call took place the day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony to the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. CrowdStrike is a cybersecurity firm that conducted work on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and accused Russia of having hacked the DNC’s servers. Ukraine has been a locus of pro-Trump conspiracy theories about the 2016 election, which claim that Ukraine’s government was aiming to assist Hillary Clinton. It is not clear, however, what “server” Trump is referring to.