President Donald Trump on Monday continued to defend his July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he reportedly pressured the newly elected foreign leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic front-runner in the race to challenge Trump’s reelection.
Speaking to reporters at the United Nations in New York City, Trump said he’s “not at all” taking seriously calls for his impeachment from Democrats that followed reports of a whistleblower complaint regarding the call.
“We had a perfect phone call with the president of Ukraine,” the president said Monday. “Everybody knows it. It’s just a Democrat witch hunt.”
The whistleblower complaint, filed on Aug. 12 by a U.S. intelligence official, alleged Trump repeatedly pushed Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, according to reports. Trump’s acting director of national intelligence has refused to show the complaint to Congress, and Trump hasn’t moved to release a transcript of his phone call.
Trump has claimed Biden called for the removal of a notoriously corrupt prosecutor in Ukraine in 2014 to impede an investigation into Ukrainian gas company, where Hunter Biden was a member of its board of directors at the time. But Ukrainian authorities have cleared Biden of any wrongdoing.
There’s no evidence Biden, as vice president, withheld aid to Ukraine to advance his own interest, as Trump has claimed. Several House committees are now investigating whether Trump delayed more than $250 million in aid to Ukraine as he allegedly pressed Zelensky to look into Biden.
“The one who’s got the problem is Biden,” Trump said Monday. “What Biden did is a disgrace. What his son did is a disgrace.”
Asked by a reporter what he said to Zelensky during the call, Trump said, “You’re going to see.”
“Because what we are doing is we want honesty,” he continued. “And if we deal with a country, we want honesty. We’re supporting a country ― we want to make sure that country is honest. It’s very important to talk about corruption.”
Trump, who has faced numerous accusations of corruption by Democrats and government watchdog group, questioned the whistleblower’s patriotism in a tweet later Monday.
“Is he on our Country’s side,” the president tweeted. “Where does he come from.”
On Friday, Trump said “it doesn’t matter” what he discussed with Zelensky. By Sunday, he acknowledged that he discussed Biden with Zelensky during the call.
Trump has denied saying anything inappropriate and said he was considering releasing a transcript of the conversation. Ukraine’s foreign minister has denied that Trump pressured Zelensky during that call.
Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has stated repeatedly on TV since Friday that he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden. Asked by The Washington Post on Sunday whether Trump had given his blessing to do so, Giuliani responded that he doesn’t “do anything that involves my client without speaking with my client.”
The explosive allegations, which if true could amount to a U.S. president seeking assistance from a foreign government to help his reelection campaign, have reignited calls for impeachment from many Democrats.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has been reluctant to move forward with impeachment, warned Sunday that Trump administration efforts to block the complaint from being released to Congress would result in a “whole new stage of investigation.”
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