The release of the transcript of President Donald Trump’s first call in April with Ukrainian President-elect Volodomyr Zelensky was meant to bolster the case that Trump had nothing but good intentions in his dealings with Ukraine—but it also showed a White House summary of the same call released to the public shortly after it occurred was largely fabricated.
The White House readout, a summary of the call released hours after it occurred, claimed Trump “underscored the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity—within its internationally recognized borders—and expressed his commitment to work together with President-elect Zelensky and the Ukrainian people to implement reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity, and root out corruption.”
Such statements are nowhere to be found in the transcript of the call released by the president on Friday. That transcript shows Trump congratulating Zelensky on his recent election win, promising to arrange a White House visit for him, and recounting the large number of Ukrainian women who participated in Trump’s Miss Universe competitions.
Nowhere does Trump mention efforts to address Ukrainian corruption, economic prosperity, or democratic institutions. Nor does he even allude to its efforts to beat back the Russian occupation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on those discrepancies to The Daily Beast. Late Friday, in a statement to CNN, a White House spokesman blamed Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman—a key witness in proceedings—for the mistake. “It is standard operating procedure for the National Security Council to provide readouts of the President's phone calls with foreign leaders,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said. “This one was prepared by the NSC's Ukraine expert.”
The White House released the transcript in an effort to undercut claims by congressional Democrats that Trump sought to leverage a Zelensky White House visit and delayed military aid to Ukraine to solicit an investigation by Ukrainian prospectors into the son of former Vice President Joe Biden and into conspiracy theories regarding a supposed Ukrainian role in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
Trump and his allies have claimed that the president was simply seeking to root out corruption in Ukraine, a stated objective of U.S. foreign policy for years. The readout of Trump’s April call with Zelensky indicated that Trump had indeed pressed Zelensky on that issue in particular.
But the transcript released Friday, which notes that it is not a “verbatim” account of the conversation, doesn’t even mention the word “corruption.”
The Trump White House has a checkered record of releasing summaries of his calls with foreign leaders, a practice viewed as standard in prior administrations. Many of those readouts have contained scant details of the conversations, even as foreign leaders put out far more detailed summaries, a practice that experts say allows foreign governments to put their own spin on highly consequential interactions with the president.