/Officials had to handle Trump Ukraine transcript in paper form: NYT

Officials had to handle Trump Ukraine transcript in paper form: NYT

  • Electronic copies of the transcript of the phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s president were not shared among officials because they found its contents so alarming, The New York Times reported.
  • Instead, they were ordered to only use printed hard copies, given to a “select group,” the Times reported.
  • The details add to the sense of extreme secrecy around the call, following a whistleblower complaint alleging that officials tried to “lock down” the transcript because of the political fallout it could cause.
  • Trump released a memo, but not a full transcript, of the call on Wednesday, which showed Trump asking Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky investigate election rival Joe Biden and his son.
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White House officials were reportedly so alarmed by President Donald Trump’s call with his counterpart in Ukraine that transcripts were only allowed to be circulated in paper form.

Officials who heard the call, in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, took “extraordinary efforts” to stop too many people learning about it, The New York Times’ Peter Baker reported.

Officials told the Times that they were given an order not to distribute the transcript of the call electronically.

Printed copies were instead hand delivered “to a select group.” The Times did not say who gave the order.

Trump Zelensky

President Donald Trump listens during a bilateral meeting with with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City, New York, September 25, 2019.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The content of the call, on June 25 this year, caught the White House off-guard, according to The Times. The paper said that officials placed no limit on how many people could listen to the call, which aides expected to be unremarkable.

These details from the officials add to the allegations in an explosive whistleblower complaint about the phone call, and the broader dealings with Ukraine from Trump’s allies, which was made public on Thursday morning.

Read more: Read the full declassified whistleblower complaint about a phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s president

The complaint was lodged in August by an anonymous intelligence official to the inspector general for the intelligence community. It says White House officials were “deeply disturbed” by the phone call, and Trump “abuse[d] his office for personal gain.”

The whistleblower alleged that officials tried to “lock down” all records of the call, especially the transcript.

He or she said they were directed by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from its usual place in the computer system, and move it to an area reserved for sensitive, classified information.

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is sworn in before testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is sworn in before testifying before the House Intelligence Committee about a secret whistleblower complaint involving President Donald Trump on Thursday.
Associated Press

The whistleblower said it was “not the first time” that a transcript of a Trump conversation has been put into this system.

Read more: The White House has a complete transcript of Ukraine call but hid it in a possible abuse of power, whistleblower complaint says

Some officials worried that the transfer of records “would be an abuse of the system,” the whistleblower said.

Some details of the complaint were corroborated by a memo about the phone call released by the White House on Wednesday. The memo was not a full, verbatim transcript of the call, but was instead made from staff notes.

According to the White House memo, Trump said during the call: “I would like you to do us a favor.” He asks that Zelensky work with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr in looking at Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Volodymyr Zelensky Donald Trump

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Donald Trump meet on Wednesday for the first time in New York.
Volodymyr Zelensky

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that some senior officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, were hesitant to release the memo.

Read more: Trump aides quickly regretted publishing the Ukraine call that has intensified calls for his impeachment, report says

The Times’ report, published late on Thursday, also demonstrates how more information is emerging about the call since the complaint was made public.

Republicans are arguing that Trump’s call does not explicitly show a “quid pro quo” exchange, and that the contents of the complaint is based on secondhand information. 

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