President Donald Trump accidentally called Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky “the new Russian president” while answering questions on Monday morning, according to a transcript of the remarks released by the White House.
President Trump spoke briefly from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland before boarding Air Force One and departing for Chicago. Fielding questions from reporters, Trump addressed the U.S. special operations raid that resulted in the death of top ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The president also made comments about House Democrats, the steadily intensifying impeachment inquiry that was sparked by his July 25 phone call with Zelensky, and the whistleblower complaint about the call.
Asked why he didn’t tell Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) or other Congressional Democrats about the planned raid on al-Baghdadi, Trump blamed Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), labelling the California Democrat as “the biggest leaker in Washington” and “a corrupt politician.” Conversation then shifted to Zelensky.
“We had a very good conversation with the Ukrainian President. The conversation was perfect,” Trump said, before maligning the whistleblower and complaining that he and other Republicans were being treated unfairly.
“I had a great conversation with the Ukrainian President. I had another conversation with him also, I think before that, which was the same thing. It was nothing. They tried to take that conversation and make it into a big scandal. The problem was we had it transcribed. It was an exact transcription of the conversation,” Trump claimed. The White House explicitly stated that it was “not a verbatim transcript” of the discussion.
Trump then seemingly confused President Zelensky for someone replacing Vladimir Putin as president of Russia (ensuing emphasis ours).
“So, in a nutshell, a whistleblower wrote a false narrative of the conversation. Now they don’t want to talk about the whistleblower because they didn’t think I was going to release the conversation. When I released the conversation, I blew up Schiff’s act. And just to put topping on it, the Russian — as you know, the new Russian President, a good man, made his statement. There was no anything. There was no pressure put on him. No anything,” Trump said.
[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]