These Three Words Show Donald Trump's 'Defenders' Don't Understand His Exchange With Ukraine's President, Justin Amash Says

Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, a Republican turned independent, has accused President Donald Trump's "defenders" of mischaracterizing the U.S. leader's exchange with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The White House released a rough transcript of Trump's July 25 phone call with Zelensky on Wednesday that showed the president urged the Ukrainian leader to investigate 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Yet Republican lawmakers and others have emphasized that Trump's remarks about the Bidens didn't come immediately after he requested "a favor," and there was no explicit mention of the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Ukraine that Trump had withheld days earlier.

Did Trump pressure a foreign power to investigate a political rival as a "favor"? Was he dangling the military aid in front of Zelensky to persuade him to agree?

The reconstructed transcript the White House released shows Trump did not directly threaten to withhold the aid if Zelensky refused. However, Democratic lawmakers and many others have argued the threat is implicit, given the timing.

As far as the debate about whether Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the Bidens as a "favor" goes, Amash said, for him at least, the matter is settled.

"President Trump's defenders mischaracterize the favor," Amash said in a tweet.

Amash noted that, according to the transcript, the president said, "I would like you to do us a favor, though." Trump then referenced CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm that investigated the 2016 hack on the Democratic National Committee, and said Attorney General William Barr would call Zelensky. "I would like you to get to the bottom of it," Trump said, according to the transcript.

Trump's defenders, Amash wrote, "want you to believe he stops there. But he continues."

Amash noted that, soon after, Trump went on to discuss "the other thing"—the Bidens.

"The other thing: There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people what to find out about that," Trump said, according to the transcript. "So whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great."

President Trump’s defenders mischaracterize the favor. Trump says, “I would like you to do us a favor though.” He mentions CrowdStrike.

They want you to believe he stops there.

But he continues: “The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son….”

*The other thing.*

— Justin Amash (@justinamash) September 26, 2019

Amash argued that those three words, "the other thing," connect Trump's request for an investigation into the Bidens to his asking for "a favor."

The lawmaker expressed surprise that the White House would even release such an "incriminating transcript," writing earlier on Twitter that he had "expected the WH to release an unremarkable transcript" as a distraction.

Instead, he said, "it released a highly incriminating transcript and it seems POTUS doesn't know the difference between right and wrong."

Justin Amash
Representative Justin Amash of Michigan holds a town hall meeting on May 28 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Bill Pugliano/Getty