“The one that was released is not the one the Situation Room created,” said one person familiar with the process, the Post article reported. “That’s just not possible.”
Their report notes that the rough transcript includes significantly fewer words per minute than previous transcripts of Trump’s phone calls that we’ve seen — between Trump and the leaders of Australia and Mexico. It’s possible that’s because of the time needed for translation (which the Australia and Mexico calls didn’t require). They also note that the Ukraine rough transcript doesn’t include a tracking number that such a document normally would.
But perhaps the most puzzling feature of the rough transcript is the ellipsis. Those three little dots — “…” — generally indicate something is being omitted, but the White House initially explained that in this case it meant “a trailing off of a voice or pause.” As The Post writes, though, generally you would use something like “[inaudible]” or some dashes (“—”) to indicate when a thought isn’t completed.
Aside from the presence of the ellipses, though, are their specific locations. And this is a key point: There are four ellipses in the document, and all come at some of the most problematic junctures of the conversation.
Three of the four come when Trump is talking about the two specific investigations he wants, on CrowdStrike and on former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden:
TRUMP: I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike ... I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation.
TRUMP: The other thing, 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. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me.
ZELENSKY: It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President, and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough …
TRUMP: Well, she’s going to go through some things. I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it.
There are no other ellipses in the document.
The first example, with the two ellipses, is particularly odd. Trump is certainly known to let his comments wander, but his words here are complete non sequiturs. He brings up CrowdStrike for the first time, then quickly refers to some mysterious “wealthy” person, before bringing up some kind of “server” that Ukraine might have.
It’s possible Trump just didn’t really have the details of this particular conspiracy theory down. For example, the server at issue here is a Democratic National Committee server that U.S. intelligence says Russia hacked. But on Sept. 25, when a reporter suggested Trump might have been referring to Hillary Clinton’s private email server as secretary of state, Trump just went with it.
“Mr. President, do you believe that the emails from Hillary Clinton — do you believe that they’re in Ukraine?” the reporter asked.
Trump responded: “I think they could be. You mean the 30,000 that she deleted? … Yeah, I think they could very well — boy, that was a nice question.”
The third ellipsis in the call draft is perhaps less suspicious and lends credence to the idea that maybe these are what the White House said they are. Trump refers to how he wants Ukraine to “look into it” — referring to the matter involving the Bidens — and then immediately after the ellipsis again refers to “it” — apparently repeating the personal pronoun he had just used to refer to the “matter involving the Bidens.” It’s possible there might be something between those two comments, but they make sense right next to one another.
The fourth is intriguing, too, though. In this case, the ellipsis comes as Zelensky is talking and right before Trump responds. But the subject is also a problematic aspect of this call. Democrats have alleged Yovanovitch’s ouster was a “political hit job” from the Trump administration, and here is Trump goading Zelensky to bash her and then Zelensky playing along. The dialogue about Yovanovitch certainly feeds the idea that she was removed for political purposes, and right smack in the middle of it is one of four ellipses.
We’re far from being able to say that this is not the full conversation. Trump said Wednesday that it was a “word-for-word” record, even though the White House said it was a rough transcript and wasn’t verbatim because it relied upon the recollections of the many people who were present on the call. And the whistleblower described an “official word-for-word transcript,” which has fed suspicions that such a transcript might exist somewhere.
It’s also not clear why, if the document was altered, it would be altered in these specific ways. There was plenty left in it that looks bad for Trump, so why wouldn’t that also be blurred? And why would you do this if you knew the full transcript might be released one day or that officials might one day be deposed and admit it’s not the full document?
There are plenty of unknowns here. What we can say for certain is that it’s odd — as is most everything about all of this.