By Joseph Lord, January 29, 2022
Republicans are demanding that the White House release a transcript of President Joe Biden’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, after unconfirmed reports alleged that Biden told Zelensky that Kyiv would soon be “sacked” by Russian forces.
The allegations originated with CNN Senior National Security Correspondent Alexander Marquardt, who reported the conversation in a Twitter post. According to Marquardt, the information was relayed by an unspecified senior Ukrainian official.
“A Russian invasion is now virtually certain once the ground freezes, Biden said to Zelensky. … Kyiv could be ‘sacked,’ Russian forces may attempt to occupy it, ‘prepare for impact’, Biden said,” Marquardt’s wrote on Twitter.
Emily Horne, a National Security Council spokeswoman, took to Twitter on Thursday to dismiss the alleged comments.
Horne re-tweeted Marquardt’s post and responded: “This is not true. President Biden said that there is a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February. He has previously said this publicly and we have been warning about this for months. Reports of anything more or different than that are completely false.”
The White House also issued a statement regarding the call between Biden and the Ukrainian President which states that the U.S. president “underscored the commitment of the United States to Ukraine’s sovereignty” and that the leaders “discussed coordinated diplomatic efforts on European security.”
Ukraine’s embassy said in a statement that the reports were “completely false.”
But Republicans believe that there may be more truth to Marquardt’s reports than U.S. and Ukrainian officials are suggesting, and have called on the White House to release the full transcript of the Thursday evening conversation.
Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), House Republican Chairwoman and a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, noted in a statement that Democrats had similarly demanded a transcript of a call between President Donald Trump and the Ukrainian president in 2019.
“The White House must release the transcript of President Biden’s call with President Zelensky immediately,” Stefanik and Jordan demanded.
“It was House Democrats, led by Chairman Schiff and Speaker Pelosi, who spent months wasting American taxpayer dollars on a purely partisan attack propped up by their selectively-edited call between President Trump and President Zelenskyy. Joe Biden himself called on President Trump to ‘release the transcript … let the House see it,’” the GOP members said.
“Now, as Biden’s foreign policy disasters mount, Democrats are putting another double standard on display by not releasing the transcript of President Biden’s call with Zelensky,” Stefanik and Jordan continued. “To paraphrase our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, if there is nothing wrong with the call, this should not be a problem.”
“President Biden’s weakness on the world stage has emboldened America’s enemies, abandoned our allies, and put us in the midst of an international crisis,” the brief statement concluded. “Now, the Biden administration is playing a game of ‘he said, she said’ regarding yesterday’s call with President Zelensky.”
Republicans have been heavily critical of the president’s foreign policy since August when Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan caused the U.S.-backed democratic government to fall to the Taliban terrorist organization.
After two decades of combat in the faraway desert nation, Republicans have argued that Biden’s decision to suddenly pull out sent the wrong message to U.S. adversaries.
In the aftermath of the withdrawal, which left hundreds of Americans trapped in the country, Republicans warned that U.S. enemies like Russia and China would be emboldened by the move. And since then, fears of an imminent Chinese invasion of Taiwan or a Russian invasion of Ukraine have been rife.
In 2014, citizens in the pro-Russian Ukrainian Crimean peninsula voted overwhelmingly to leave Ukraine and join Russia. Russia accepted the results and moved in to annex the region. Kyiv and Western nations decried the move, which they said was illegal, and imposed tough sanctions on Russia in response.
Over the past several weeks, Russia has amassed troops along Ukraine’s eastern border, igniting concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin will try to invade all or part of Ukraine.
Putin, for his part, has denied any such intention, and has insisted that conflict can be avoided if the United States agrees not to attempt to add Ukraine to the NATO pact. If Ukraine were to join NATO, the United States could set up nuclear missile sites in the country that could potentially reach Moscow in minutes.
Russia’s central demand is that the United States and NATO permanently block Ukraine from membership in the alliance, a demand that Biden has refused.
This refusal has caused tensions to continue to escalate, and it remains unclear what role—if any—the United States and its allies would play in the event of a Russian invasion.
Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.