The New York Times and the Washington Post selectively cut up the transcript of a July phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the newspapers’ front pages to fit each paper’s misleading headline accusing Trump of requesting a favor that he never asked.
“Trump offered Justice’s aid for a probe of Biden,” reads the Washington Post front page.
“Trump asked for ‘favor in call, memo shows,” blares The New York Times.
Each paper prominently displays selectively edited passages of the transcript between the two leaders below the primary headlines, each omitting key text that shows each statement to be demonstrably false.
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) September 26, 2019
Accurate context is seen below in more of the transcript. It undermines the misleading headlines from the two newspapers. The elipses (…) are original to the transcript. This full text was left un-highlighted in the Times and completely off-page in the Post:
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 and 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.
As the transcript shows, the “favor” in question was Trump seeking help with the Department of Justice’s probe into 2016 election meddling by Ukraine. Nowhere in the fully unclassified and unredacted transcript does it show Trump either demanding that Ukraine investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter as a favor or any offer of quid pro quo.
In fact, Trump’s later mention of the prosecutor who was fired seems to also relate to the two president’s larger discussion of rooting out political corruption. Zelensky notes that the previous Ukranian ambassador to the United States under his political opponent was “bad,” and that the previous Ukranian administration did not support U.S. interests. Trump responds:
Good because you had a prosecutor who was very good and was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that.
The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it. It sounds horrible to me.
When Zelensky and Trump discuss this specific prosecutor, they make zero mention of any “quid pro quo,” of Trump using U.S. aid or other things Ukraine wants as a bargaining chip. Yet the Washington Post and New York Times selectively cut the transcript to make it appear as if that is the case.
Several other mainstream media organizations made the same stunning omission Wednesday in their reporting of the declassified transcript. CNN, MSNBC, and NPR all glossed over more than 500 words of the transcript and several different topics discussed to connect the word “favor” to Trump’s suggestion for Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens for their dealings with a Ukrainian energy company to weed out corruption in their country.
In 2014, Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company. He made $50,000 a month despite no prior experience in the industry, all while his father managed U.S. policy on Ukraine as vice president. Joe Biden later bragged about playing a role in firing the Ukrainian prosecutor investigating Hunter’s company with an explicit quid pro quo of $1 billion in withheld U.S. aid if the Ukranian government did not comply.
The focus in the media however, have not centered on the Bidens’ shady dealings with Ukraine but on an anonymous “whistleblower” complaint that was based on hearsay accusing Trump of conspiring with the Ukrainian president to investigate his political opponent. The charges mirror false allegations made three years ago accusing Trump of working with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016, which, after three years of wall-to-wall coverage and a costly probe by a special counsel, were shown to be nothing more than a conspiracy theory.