Democrats launch formal Trump impeachment inquiry


File photo of US  President Donald Trump

File photo of US President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump during a phone call pushed his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymr Zelensky to work with the US attorney general to investigate the conduct of Democratic political rival Joe Biden, according to a transcript of the conversation that is now at the centre of Democrats’ impeachment probe.

The White House on Wednesday released details of the phone call between President Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart.

It shows Trump asked Zelensky on 25 July to investigate Democratic candidate Biden, a former US vice president. Biden’s son worked for a Ukrainian gas firm.

A redacted version of the transcripts of the July 25 telephonic conversation was released by the White House in a memo format.

Zelensky said that the issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honest.

During the call, Trump asked Zelensky to work with US Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, to look into the matter, according to the notes.

The July call occurred days after Trump directed the US government to withhold about USD 391 million in military aid to Ukraine.

A downbeat Donald Trump dismissed as a “joke” the grounds laid out for the impeachment inquiry into him, as Democrats stood firm in accusing the US president of a “mafia-style shakedown” of his Ukrainian counterpart.

Trump denied claims he abused his office by repeatedly urging President Volodymyr Zelensky to probe his rival Joe Biden — as confirmed in a call transcript released by the White House.

Trump and his allies claimed the July 25 call contained no evidence of a quid pro quo pressuring Zelensky to probe the president’s top Democratic rival for the White House.

Trump denied withholding US military aid to Ukraine as leverage in a bid to smear his political rival, Biden.

There is no discussion of that money in the memorandum released by the White House.

The release of the transcript comes a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared the President had betrayed his oath of office and announced she is opening a formal impeachment inquiry.

The transcript, which a senior White House official said was developed with assistance from voice recognition software along with note takers and experts listening, will likely amplify the Democratic impeachment effort, CNN said.

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris said that the memo shows Trump pressured a foreign government to work with the US Attorney General to investigate a political opponent.

The memo also shows Trump asking Zelensky for a “favor” on an issue unconnected to Biden — just after noting that the US had been “very, very good to Ukraine.” Analysts noted that the transcript uses ellipses — denoting words or entire passages are missing — on three occasions, all when Trump is making requests of Zelensky.

Others pointed out that it was supposed to summarize a 30-minute call, yet the transcript runs to around just 12 minutes.

“There was no pressure whatsoever,” Trump told reporters earlier Wednesday, saying Democrats had built up the exchange as the “call from hell” but that “it turned out to be a nothing call”.

Zelensky insisted meanwhile that he had not been “pushed” by Trump during the controversial call.

Faced with the possibility of becoming the third US president in history to be impeached, Trump has pushed back hard — branding the probe the “single greatest witch hunt in American history, a disgraceful thing.”

The controversy arose after a whistleblower from within the US intelligence community filed a complaint with an internal watchdog about Trump’s conversation with Zelenskiy.

Reacting to the controversy on Wednesday morning at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Trump said it was the “single greatest witch hunt in American history”.