White House appears to inadvertently send talking points on Ukraine call to Democrats

The White House in Washington, DC on Sept. 16, 2018. Copyright Mandel Ngan AFP - Getty Images file
By Allan Smith and Alex Moe with NBC News Politics
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In a separate email obtained by NBC News, a White House staffer sought "to recall the message."


The White House appears to have inadvertently sent its talking points onPresident Donald Trump's record of a call with the Ukrainian president to both Democratic and Republican offices on Wednesday.

The email was sent by Director of Government Communications Tori Symonds, multiple sources told NBC News. Then, in a separate email sent shortly after and obtained by NBC News, Symonds sought "to recall the message." Symonds did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

The talking points included in the email included "What the President actually talked about was entirely proper," that the "real scandal here is that leaks about a second-hand account of the President's confidential telephone call with a foreign leader triggered a media frenzy of false accusations against the President and forced the President to release the transcript," and "Let's be clear, there was no quid pro quo for Ukraine to get US aid in exchange for looking into Biden or his son."

The talking points followed the earlier Wednesday release of a summary of the president's late July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which blanketed Washington this week. Scrutiny of the call led to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's announcement on Tuesday of formal impeachment inquiry to determine whether Trump sought help from a foreign leader to boost his campaign.

In the July call, Trump asked Zelenskiy if he could do "a favor" before asking his Ukrainian counterpart to further probe the Bidens and other matters involving Democrats and the 2016 presidential election.

The release of the phone call came after intense pressure from Democrats, who were responding to reports that Trump pressured Zelenskiy into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

"Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it. ... It sounds horrible to me," Trump told Zelenskiy during the 30-minute July 25 phone call, according to the call log, which the White House noted was not a verbatim transcript.

"I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that's really unfair," Trump says on the call, according to the description. "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."

Zelenskiy replied he planned to appoint a new prosecutor who would probe the matter.

Though a quid pro quo was not explicit, Trump asks for the favor after discussing Ukrainian aid with Zelenskiy.

"I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing," Trump says in the description, adding the U.S. "has been very very good to Ukraine."

"I wouldn't say that it's reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine," he continued.

Trump defended the conversation on Wednesday.

"There was no pressure, the way you had that built up, that call, it was going to be the call from hell," Trump told reporters during a meeting at the United Nations after the summary was released. "It turned out to be a nothing call other than a lot of people said, 'I never knew you could be so nice.'"

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