One of President Donald Trump’s biggest defenses against charges of improper discussions and demands with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky is a transcript that he says shows he did nothing wrong.
The phone call, which the document Trump cites even notes him asking Zelensky to open investigations that could benefit him politically (including against Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden), is “a good call,” Trump recently said in an interview with The Washington Examiner.
But the word hasn’t gotten out to the American people, the president said, so he intends to read the transcript to them directly.
“At some point, I’m going to sit down, perhaps as a fireside chat on live television, and I will read the transcript of the call, because people have to hear it,” he said. “When you read it, it’s a straight call.”
There’s just one problem with that plan: the transcript Trump claims exonerated him isn’t a transcript at all. It’s a memorandum.
There’s a big difference between the two terms, which could be explained using Dictionary definitions or other sources. But the memo provides this distinction in its own text, pointing out that it is not a reliable depiction of what Trump said to Zelensky, or vice versa.
“CAUTION: A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion,” the document states (PDF) in a disclaimer at the bottom of the first page. In other words, if Trump read the memo on-the-air to the American people, claiming that it was a transcript of his call to Zelensky, that would be a lie.
A deposition given by Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who sits on Trump’s own National Security Council, further noted that the memo left out key portions of dialogue between the two leaders, reporting from HillReporter.com noted earlier this week.
It's a memo. I'm sure we'd all like to see the full transcript if you would like to go ahead and release that to the public in the name of transparency. https://t.co/yzbmvxieXk
— Josh Mahony (@joshuamahony) October 31, 2019
Any time that the administration or Trump himself claims that the “transcript” is proof that he’s innocent of any wrongdoing, it must be remembered: the document which they cite isn’t a transcript at all, and is not a fully, 100 percent reliable retelling of what transpired between Trump and Zelensky.
Other depositions from administration officials (former and current) also showcase that Trump did indeed withhold security aid to Ukraine, as well as refused to meet with Zelensky directly, on the premise that the nation would only receive those promises after agreeing to open up investigations into Trump’s rivals.
To put it bluntly: the memo isn’t the “get out of jail free” card that Trump has said it is.