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A memorandum of notes from President Trump’s July phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy documents that Trump asked Zelensky for “a favor” by investigating the business dealings of Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son. Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Trump, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why she doesn’t think Trump did anything wrong.
And now I am joined by Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump. She joins us from the White House.
Kellyanne Conway, thank you for talking with us.
I know you heard some of what Chairman Schiff just said, but I want to come back to the whistle-blower's complaint.
The essence of it is that the president essentially used the power of his office to try to get a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election, and that he came to that conclusion after talking with over half-a-dozen U.S. officials over some four months.
Well, Judy, that's false.
And we all know that, because we have the — we have actually the complaint, but, more importantly, we have the transcript of the conversation between President Trump and the president of Ukraine.
And no time does he mention the 2020 race. At no time does he talk about Joe Biden, the front-runner, who I don't know how to beat, I need your help beating him.
This president doesn't need Ukraine's help to beat Joe Biden or anyone else, any more than he needed Russia's help to beat Hillary Clinton. They're terrible candidates who self-immolate all on their own.
But I really must respectfully push back, Judy. I listened to Chairman Schiff. And he's lying to you and to all of your viewers tonight.
When he says the president was using the sanctity of the office to dig up dirt on a political opponent, where is that? I'm looking at the telephone conversation here. It simply isn't there.
At no time was a mention of aid being withheld. At no time was a mention of 2020. In fact, they are discussing the 2016 campaign. And they spend more time on Emmanuel Macron of France and Angela Merkel of Germany, and the fact that the Ukrainian president is saying that these countries are not helping Ukraine as much as the U.S. is. They're not sanctioning Russia as much.
Well, if I could — if I could just come into the point that you were just making.
It wasn't stated outright in that conversation, which, by the way, there was no transcript. This was a memorandum of people who listened.
But what you have is a set of circumstances, because, a short time before this, President Trump had stopped the — any military aid going to Ukraine, even though his Defense Department had signed off on that aid and said, this is a country that is cleaning up corruption, this aid should go forward.
You had Republicans and Democrats in Congress favoring it. And yet President Trump stopped it.
So, you look at that, and you combine it with this — with this conversation, the reporting that the president was angry with the Ukrainian government because of what had happened in 2016, and the conclusion is what it is.
Well, the conclusion is what people want it to be.
And we saw that today in, I thought, a very unfortunate public hearing with the acting DNI director, led by none other than Chairman Schiff, who loves to be on TV, whether it's as chairman of the Intel Committee or with you or many other places.
That entire hearing could have been done behind closed doors. How do we know that? Because the Senate had a hearing with the same gentleman, the acting DNI director, behind closed doors right after the Chairman Schiff theatrical production.
This is not the way these things should operate. We do not impeach presidents because certain people who don't like him and voted against him hate him. Hate is not a high crime and misdemeanor.
A phone call with a foreign leader in which most of the conversation is congratulatory, it's about helping — helping more than France and Germany are helping, it's about the Ukrainian president actually crediting President Trump for enforcing sanctions, whereas — against Russia, whereas Germany and France won't.
At no time does the president mention the 2020 election.
And yet you have the chairman of the Intelligence Committee and many others lying today, saying that the president explicitly was trying to dig up dirt.
We just don't see that in this phone call.
And it's not fair for it to be said.
I think — I think many people, by mentioning Joe Biden, the inference is clearly that he's thinking about 2020.
But let me just move quickly.
No, no. And, Judy, no, I'm sorry.
I need — I need to say that The New York Times had had an article in early May about Hunter Biden and what he was doing in Ukraine. The Hill newspaper had had an article on April 1, and wherein it had the whole transcript of Joe Biden January 23, 2018, a year after leaving the vice presidency, bragging about withholding $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine.
And the reporting — I'm sorry. The…
So, that — people were talking about that.
Well, the reporting on that is that he was referring to an international effort to get Ukraine to clean up corruption, and he was saying, if that corruption isn't cleaned up, there won't be aid forthcoming.
But what I also want to ask you about, Kellyanne Conway, is that a number of Democrats, not just Chairman Schiff, but others are saying, equally more troubling than this phone call is the allegation when — that the president went to such great lengths to restrict all access to records of this call, to lock them down.
I'm going to read just quickly from the whistle-blower complaint.
He said: "White House officials told me they were directed by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such documents are normally stored."
He went on to say: "Instead, the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store classified information, he said, "even though it didn't contain anything remotely classified."
Well, first of all, he's incorrect.
Any conversation with a foreign leader is classified. This very document had to be declassified for the president to have released it. And he has.
Isn't that the point, that — they all want to talk about how it was handled? Do you know who has access to this document now? Everyone.
This president, who has led the democratization of information, whether it's through his social media, his many press avails, having people like me speak, and, in this case, releasing a full transcript, a full memo, as is the custom here, of a call that he had with the Ukrainian president — he released it.
So they want to talk about how it was handled, yet we all have access to it. We can all read it.
And, Judy, I think that the document is remarkable for what's not there. What's not there is a president worried about Joe Biden, who is self-destructing on the campaign trail.
Well, let me…
What's not there is a president saying, I'm going to withhold aid until you do the certain things.
None of — none of that is there.
I'm going to…
The Ukrainian president is talking about draining the swamp. And they're both talking about Hunter Biden when they talk about draining the swamp.
And I'm sorry to come back to this. And I think, again, it's implied because of the timing of the withholding of funds.
But I want to ask you about what the president said just this morning to the staff of the U.S. mission to the United Nations about people who talked to the whistle-blower being spies and how this country handled spies.
Does the president believe anyone who talked to this whistle-blower is, in effect, not loyal to this country?
Well, he hasn't said that to me.
And I think the president is always astonished when conversations like this leak. Early on in our — in our — in his presidency, conversations with the president of Mexico, the president of Australia, I believe it was, different than the presidents of those two countries now, those conversations leaked.
Some conversations he had with the Russian ambassador leaked. He's always surprised that people who are entrusted with these tremendous responsibilities and have access to top information, secret information, classified information in our nation and take on these positions where you are a public servant entrusted with public — with information to protect the public, not harm the public, breach that trust.
So there is — there may be frustration and consternation there.
But the president — but, again, I think we should also note, people are calling this person a whistle-blower. The OLC actually said that this was routine diplomacy, it was not an intelligence activity by the president.
And this whistle-blower did not have direct access. They're getting it from other people. So we need to find out more about that.
Kellyanne Conway at the White House, thank you very much.
Thank you, Judy.
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