March 24, 2022
Washington, DC – Today, the Center to Advance Security in America (CASA) Director Adam Turner called for transparency on the breaking news that senior government officials have been coordinating behind the scenes to shield a Russian oligarch from sanctions being imposed by the U.S. government in response to the Russian war in Ukraine. A recent telephone conversation between President Biden and Ukrainian President Zelensky appeared to focus on a request for special treatment of a particular Russian oligarch as part of the Ukrainian’s assistance to President Biden in his formulation of sanctions policy. The outlines of the potential quid pro quo are still yet to be revealed as the White House and State Department spokesmen have declined to release the transcripts.
The incident is slightly reminiscent of another private phone call involving the Ukrainian president and former President Donald Trump. In that case, however, transcripts normally classified for national security reasons were leaked to press outlets by a staff member on the National Security Council, Colonel Alexander Vindman. Allegations of a potential “quid pro quo” suggested in that phone call subsequently led to impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives. Then-candidate Biden celebrated the leaking of the transcripts stating, “[Trump] should have been pinning a medal on Vindman….And I think we should all stand and give Colonel Vindman a show of how much we supported him.”
Multiple Biden Administration spokesmen, including from the National Security Council, refused to comment or release the transcripts, citing the private nature of the conversation. Several international allies have questioned whether Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has in fact been facilitating peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, despite the special treatment afforded him by the White House and State Department.
“In light of the unusual nature of President Biden’s phone call with President Zelensky and Mr. Abramovich’s questionable involvement in the peace process, a decision to release the transcripts of the two leaders’ phone call would go a long way to assuring the American public that there is no inappropriate ’quid pro quo’ going on,” said Adam Turner, Director of the Center to Advance Security in America. “While CASA certainly does not support any illegal disclosure of classified information, an official release of call transcripts does appear warranted under the circumstances. We hope President Biden stands by his support for transparency into private Presidential conversations in order to clear up any potential confusion about whether certain Russian oligarchs are receiving special treatment for an unrealized benefit sought by the President of the United States.”