“All we need from the President [Zelensky] is to say, I’m gonna put an honest prosecutor in charge, he’s gonna investigate and dig up the evidence, that presently exists and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election, and then the Biden thing has to be run out,” Giuliani said, according to the audio. “… Somebody in Ukraine’s gotta take that seriously.”
“That would clear the air really well,” Giuliani said, according to the recording. “And I think it would make it possible for me to come and make it possible, I think, for me to talk to the President (Trump) to see what I can do about making sure that whatever misunderstandings are put aside … I kinda think that this could be a good thing for having a much better relationship.”
The tape provides a firsthand perspective to one of the most consequential moments of Trump’s presidency. The Ukrainians are occasionally heard shuffling through papers, and the phone that’s dialed into the call rings a few times during the conversation — but Yermak stays on the line with Giuliani.
Cajoling and arm-twisting
The call was a big moment for Giuliani’s quest to damage Biden’s candidacy.
The call started with Giuliani explaining several convoluted right-wing conspiracy theories about Biden’s diplomatic dealings in Ukraine and supposed Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.
“I got information from a reliable investigator, international investigator, that there was a certain amount of activity in Ukraine during the 2016 election,” Giuliani said to Yermak during the call, pushing the false claim that US embassy officials tried to “produce dirt on then-candidate Trump and Paul Manafort.”
“To me, as a lawyer, it sounds like a bribe,” Giuliani said. “A bribe is offering something of value in exchange for official action. So, he offered Poroshenko a $1.2 billion loan guarantee, critical to Poroshenko’s success as president, in exchange for getting rid of a prosecutor general.”
He peppered in several disclaimers throughout the conversation, like saying he wasn’t sure if the corruption claims against Biden were true and that he only wants “the truth” to come out. Giuliani also told Yermak, “I’m not telling (Zelensky) what to say,” even though he very clearly said on a few occasions that Zelensky should announce the specific probes that Trump wanted.
“We’re a country fighting an active war with Russia for many years,” he said. “So, anything to do with swapping favors within our bilateral relationship in exchange for trying to get us involved in US domestic politics is just wrong, on many levels, morally, ethically and probably even legally.”
‘That would be good for all of us’
“I’m absolutely sure that as soon as the dates of the President Zelensky’s upcoming visit to United States will be confirmed, I am ready to be personally assume control of the preparation,” Yermak said. “And of course, I will be ready to come, and we can (be) personally sitting (down), and in detail discuss all the questions, all this investigation which you listed in our conversation.”
By the end of the call, it seemed clear to Yermak what needed to happen to get on Trump’s good side.
“I’m sure that Zelensky will say that,” Yermak said, referring to the requests from Giuliani and Volker that Zelensky should mention the investigations during his upcoming call with Trump.
“Good,” Volker said.
“Believe me, Andriy, that would be good for all of us,” Giuliani replied. “That would move it along very fast. And I can assure you that, as far as I’m concerned, I think they should talk this week.”
Volker said, “I will press that as well,” referring to getting Trump to call Zelensky.
CNN’s Zahra Ullah contributed to this story.