Ex-Zelensky adviser says Biden case was precondition to Trump phone call

President Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

A former adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told ABC News on Wednesday that President Trump's desire for the two leaders to discuss a possible investigation into Joe Biden was a precondition for their now-infamous July 25 phone call.

"It was clear that Trump will only have communications if they will discuss the Biden case. This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood."
— Serhiy Leshchenko

Why it matters: The phone call has resulted in a formal impeachment inquiry being launched against Trump, despite the president's insistence that he did nothing wrong and that there was no "quid pro quo" involved in his request. On Wednesday, Zelensky said at the UN that he did not feel pressed by Trump and that he does not want to be involved in U.S. elections.

The big picture: The Trump-Ukraine whistleblower complaint released by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday corroborates the underlying claim by Leshchenko, as reported by ABC News. It states:

"[M]ultiple U.S. officials told me that the Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a meeting or phone call between the President and President Zelenskyy would depend on whether Zelenskyy showed willingness to 'play ball' on the issues that had been aired by Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Giuliani."

Go deeper: Read the White House's summary of the phone call

Editor's note: ABC News has corrected its story to reflect that Leshchenko is no longer an adviser to Zelensky. We have updated our story accordingly.

Additional Stories

State Department circulates talking points contradicting Trump on Syria

U.S. military vehicles drive on a road in the town of Tal Tamr on October 20, 2019, after pulling out of their base. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department distributed talking points to American embassies on Oct. 17 that included warnings that Turkey’s military offensive against Kurds in northern Syria is undermining counter-ISIS efforts and endangering innocent civilians, Vox's Alex Ward reports.

Why it matters: The talking points contradict President Trump's optimism about the Turkish incursion that followed his decision to remove troops from northern Syria. They indicate that members of his administration, especially career diplomats, are worried about the long-term consequences of the decision.

Pompeo says he "never saw" Ukraine aid as tied to political investigations

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that he "never saw" the suspension of military aid to Ukraine as being tied to pressure to open investigations into Democrats, telling George Stephanopoulos that he'll leave it to acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to "explain what it is he said and what he intended."

Mulvaney attempts to clean up comments on Ukraine quid pro quo

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on "Fox News Sunday" that reporters misinterpreted comments he made on Oct. 17 about President Trump conditioning $400 million in aid to Ukraine on its government opening political investigations.

Read more at Axios
© Copyright Axios 2019