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VERIFY: How a phone call, a whistleblower and Ukraine led to an impeachment inquiry

As everyone continues to talk about the impeachment inquiry into the president’s actions with Ukraine, the VERIFY team is taking a look at what led to the situation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday announced the official start of an impeachment inquiry into a whistleblower report about President Donald Trump.

Pelosi said that the government needed to release the full text of the whistleblower complaint and said that six committees within the House of Representatives would be investigating the claims alleged in the report.


While the document wasn’t officially released, reports in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post all cited “sources” that claimed Trump had asked Ukraine's president to investigate Joe Biden and his son - and threatened to withhold military aid if they didn’t.

The reports indicated that the conversation had occurred during a call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July.

On Monday, it was reported that Trump had ordered his staff to freeze nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine a few days before a phone call with Zelensky.

But why would Trump ask the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden?


In recent months, the president accused Biden of using his position as vice president to shut down a Ukrainian prosecutor’s investigation into a company. 

Biden’s son was a member of that company’s board.

“Look at Joe Biden,”  Trump said in an interview with Fox News. “He calls them [Ukrainian government leaders] and says, ‘Don’t you dare prosecute. If you don’t fire this prosecutor’ — the prosecutor was after his son — then he said, ‘If you fire the prosecutor, you’ll be okay. And if you don’t fire the prosecutor, we’re not giving you $2 billion in loan guarantees,’ or whatever he was supposed to give. Can you imagine if I did that?”

Some quick facts:
From 2014 through 2019, Hunter Biden served on the board of a Russian company that was later investigated by the Ukrainian Prosecutor General.

In 2016, then-Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Ukraine and told leaders that the U.S. would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees if they didn’t remove the Prosecutor General.

But - if you stop there, you’re missing a part of the story.

Biden wasn’t against the investigation into the company, he was calling for the Prosecutor General to be fired for corruption.

And he wasn’t alone.
For months before Biden’s visit to Ukraine, the U.S and allies like the U.K. had worked with groups like the international monetary fund and World Bank. They called for the removal of the Prosecutor General for fear of corruption.

Quite simply. There isn’t any evidence to support claims that Biden acted to help his son.

And Ukraine’s current Prosecutor General was quoted saying there was:

“No evidence of wrongdoing by ... Joe Biden or his son.” or that “the former VP intentionally tried to help his son ...”

The idea that Biden did this for his son can’t be proved false at this point - but it’s important to note that there’s no evidence to support it either. And Ukrainian officials have said they’ve found no evidence of wrongdoing.


Lawmakers want to know whether the president asked a foreign government to dig up dirt on his political opponent. And they want to know whether he threatened to withhold military funding to make it happen.

The White House and Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, have refused to turn over the full text of the whistleblower complaint.

But, on Wednesday, the White House did release a memo about the president’s July phone call with Zelensky.

The memo says that it’s not a verbatim transcript of what was said, but it’s the only document providing insight into the conversation at this point.

The memo shows that Zelensky mentioned buying military weapons from the United States. In response, Trump asked for a “favor.”

The document shows he asked Zelensky to investigate elements related to the 2016 election and later shows that he asked to have Ukraine investigate Biden.

But the memo does not reflect Trump threatening to withhold money.

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