President Donald Trump on Monday denied putting any pressure ‘whatsoever’ on the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden or Hunter Biden by linking millions in U.S. aid to the country to an investigation he has admitted calling for.
‘I put no pressure on them, whatsoever,’ Trump told reporters during a bilateral meeting with the president of Poland at the UN.
Then, he allowed: ‘[I] could have. I think it would probably possible have been okay if I did, but I didn’t put any pressure on them whatsoever.’
‘You know why? Because they want to do the right thing and they don’t know corruption and they probably know that Joe Biden and his son is corrupt. They probably know that. Joe Biden and his son are corrupt,’ Trump continued.
Trump’s clear denial of the linkage between the funds and the ask, which Democrats have already said could constitute a quid-pro-quo if it happened, came just hours after he said it was valid to link financial assistance to efforts to combat ‘corruption.’
‘If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?’ Trump said Monday.
President Donald Trump tore into former Vice President Joe Biden at the United Nations on Monday as he began days of meetings there
Trump also pointed to a statement by the Ukrainian government. ‘They also said there was no pressure,’ Trump said.
And he appeared to walk back a statement where he said he might release a transcript that would vindicate him.
‘I don’t think it’s a great precedent to be releasing calls with foreign countries, heads of to foreign countries. I don’t think it’s a great precedent, so I didn’t say that I was going to release it all,’ he said, when asked about putting out the information.
On Sunday on a trip to Houston, Trump while defending his conduct had raised the possibility of releasing a transcript.
‘We’ll make a determination about how to release it, releasing it, saying what we said,’ he said then.
Trump vociferously defended his July talk with the newly-elected Ukrainian leader. ‘It’s a great call. It’s a very honorable call. It’s a nice call,’ Trump said.
‘I put no pressure on them, whatsoever,’ Trump said of his July 25 call with the president of Ukraine. ‘[I] could have. I think it would probably possible have been okay if I did, but I didn’t put any pressure on them whatsoever.’
Trump made the comments while fuming about what he considers unfair media treatment.
‘If a Republican ever did what Joe Biden did, if a Republican ever said what Joe Biden said, they’d be getting the electric chair right now,’ the president vented.
‘Look at the double standards. You people ought to be ashamed of yourself.
‘You got a lot of crooked journalists here. Crooked as hell,’ he fumed.
His line about the death penalty came on a day GOP presidential candidate William Weld said: ‘Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a U.S. election. That’s not just undermining democratic institutions. That is treason. It’s treason pure and simple, and the penalty for treason under the U.S. code is death. That’s the only penalty.’
Earlier Monday, Trump tore into Democratic rival Joe Biden as well as the former vice president’ son, saying what both did in Ukraine was a ‘disgrace’ – as leading Democrats in Congress weigh a renewed impeachment conduct following revelations about the president’s own conduct.
Trump defended his own conversation with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, while fielding questions from reporters at the UN Monday morning.
‘We had a perfect phone call with the president of Ukraine. Everybody knows it’s just a Democrat witch hunt,’ Trump said, reviving his terminology for the Russia probe.
‘Here we go again. They failed with Russia, they failed with recession. They failed with everything. And now they’re bringing this up,’ Trump said.
‘The one who’s got the problem is Biden. If you look at what Biden did, Biden did what they would like to have me do except the one problem, I didn’t do it. What Biden did is a disgrace. What his son did is a disgrace,’ Trump said.
‘The son took money from Ukraine, the son took money from China, a lot of money from China. China would love to see, they would take a think of nothing they’d rather see than Biden get in because they will take this great deal that we’re about to make, and they would really have themselves a deal. Let me just tell you, what Biden did was wrong,’ he added.
The president’s attack is in keeping with his strategy since the emergence of a whistleblower’s claims, reportedly about his own dealings with Ukraine. The president has thrown up a series of accusations at Biden and his surviving son, Hunter, who joined the board of a Ukrainian energy company in 2014, while his father was serving as vice president. Hunter Biden also had dealings in China.
Democrats are demanding Trump’s Director of National Intelligence release information about the whistleblower’s claims, as generally required by whistleblower statutes.
U.S. President Donald Trump attends the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Administration ‘will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness’ if it ‘persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even hinted at Donald Trump’s impeachment in a Sunday statement where she said there was a ‘whole new stage of investigation’ if the president blocks the whistleblower report from reaching Congress.
She wrote that the Administration ‘will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness’ if it ‘persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President’.
She added the move would ‘take us into a whole new stage of investigation’.
Trump, in his morning comments spoke about the need to control corruption in Ukraine. He is to meet President Zelensky at the UN. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported Trump told Zelensky in a July 25 call eight times that he should investigate Hunter Biden.
Also in July, the White House decided to hold up $250 million in security aid to Ukraine. Democrats have warned of a possible quid-pro-quo, though there are no indications Trump mentioned the security assistance in the July 25 phone call.
‘We want honesty. And I think with the new president, you’re going to see much more honesty in the Ukraine. And that’s what we’re looking for. We’re supporting a country, we want to make sure that country is honest, it’s very important to talk about corruption,’ Trump said.
Trump also appeared to confirm that it was appropriate to link U.S. security aid to Ukraine with its anti ‘corruption’ work.
‘If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?’ he said. ‘One of the reasons the new president got elected as he was going to stop corruption. So it’s very important that on occasion, you speak to somebody about corruption, very important,’ he said.
HOW THE TRUMP ‘WHISTLEBLOWER’ SCANDAL UNFOLDED
August 12: The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, receives a complaint from a ‘member of the intelligence community’ – someone working for one of 17 agencies which include the CIA and FBI, but not the White House or Congress. At the time, Donald Trump is on vacation at his New Jersey golf club
August 15: Dan Coats serves his final day as Director of National Intelligence, and is replaced by in an acting capacity by Joseph Maguire
August 26: Atkinson transmits the complaint to Maguire, which he has to do by law if he has found it ‘urgent’ and ‘credible’
September 2 (Labor Day): Legal deadline for Maguire to transmit the complaint to Congress expires
September 9: Inspector General writes to the House and Senate Intelligence committees telling them that he has received a complaint from a member of the intelligence community – but not what it is
September 10: House Intel Committee chair Adam Schiff writes to Maguire demanding information on the complaint
September 13: Maguire writes unclassified letter to the intel committees’ chairs and ranking members saying the complaint does not need to be disclosed because it did not ‘concern allegations of conduct by a member of the Intelligence Community or involve an intelligence activity under the DNI’s supervision.’ He also says that the DNI ‘lacks unilateral authority’ to allow the complaint to go to Congress
September 13, evening: Schiff issues a subpoena to Maguire demanding he testify to the House Intelligence Committee. He writes to Maguire and says that the DNI’s office has refused to rule out that it involves Trump, and that it is about an ‘area of active investigation by the committee.’
September 17: Maguire’s general counsel writes to Schiff and tells him two key things. The first is that the complaint ‘concerned conduct by someone outside the Intelligence Community and did not relate to any intelligence activity under the DNI’s supervision.’ That means the DNI is saying it isn’t a matter for the inspector general at all. The second is that it ‘involves confidential and potentially privileged matters relating to the interests of other stakeholders within the Executive Branch.’ And he says that the conclusion was reached after consultation with the Department of Justice, which is led by Attorney General Bill Barr.
September 17: Atkinson writes to Schiff saying he and Maguire are ‘at an impasse’ over the complaint. Calling the complaint ‘credible’ and ‘urgent,’ he says the IG’s view is that it does concern ‘an intelligence activity’ inside his remit – but that the DNI’s decision that it does not binds his hands. He says he has asked to be allowed to tell Congress ‘the basic subject matter’ of the complaint but been told not to. He says he fears that the whistleblower could be at risk of reprisals but not be protected
September 18, daytime: Schiff writes to Maguire, saying he will accept his testimony on September 26
September 18, 9p.m.: The Washington Post says the complaint involves ‘Trump’s communications with a foreign leader.’
September 19, 9a.m.: Atkinson meets the House Intel committee behind closed doors. He tells them that the complaint is definitely within his jurisdiction but not what it is
September 19, 10.47a.m.: Trump tweets a denial of wrongdoing, saying: ‘…is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially ‘heavily populated’ call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!’
September 19, 3p.m.: The New York Times reports the complaint involves ‘a series of actions that goes beyond any single discussion with a foreign leader.’
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York on Monday accused Senate Republicans and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of having a ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ approach toward Trump.
He said it ‘is unacceptable and must change.’
Trump on Sunday said he did not nothing wrong while admitting he did ask the Ukrainian leader to look into the unsubstantiated claims against his political rival.
‘We had a great conversation. The conversation I had was largely congratulatory. It was largely corruption — all of the corruption taking place. It was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,’ he acknowledged.
‘The conversation I had was largely congratulatory,’ Trump said, ‘with largely corruption – all of the corruption taking place – and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating [sic] to the corruption already in the Ukraine.’
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told CNN on Sunday that Trump may have ‘crossed the Rubicon’ on impeachment, adding that Trump ‘is pushing us down this road.’
Biden told reporters while campaigning in Iowa Saturday: ‘This appears to be an overwhelming abuse of power. To get on the phone with a foreign leader who is looking for help from the United States, and ask about me and imply things – if that’s what happened. That appears to be what happened. … This is outrageous. You have never seen anything like this.’
HOW TRUMP’S CALL TO UKRAINE PRESIDENT COULD MATCH UP WITH WHISTLE-BLOWER’S COMPLAINT
What we know about the call: The call was made on July 25.
What we know about the complaint: The complaint was registered on August 12
The call was to a ‘world leader.’
The call was to the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky
It cannot be ruled out that the complaint concerns President Trump
The call was made by President Trump
The complaint was about a ‘series of actions’ not just the call
A series of known actions surround the call.
Two days after the call, Kurt Volker, the State Department’s special envoy for peace between Ukraine and Russian visited Kiev and met Zelensky.
The following day, it was revealed by Politico that the Trump administration had put a package of military aid to Ukraine on hold.
At the start of August, the State Department, specifically Volker, facilitated a meeting in Madrid between Rudi Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, and Andriy Yermak, an ally of Zelensky. Giuliani tweeted from Santa Cruz del Retamar, 40 miles from Madrid, on August 3.
Giuliani acknowledged later that month that he had told Yermak the country’s government should look into claims of corruption by Hunter Biden and attempts by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to find dirt on Trump in 2016. He told the New York Times he had ‘strongly urged’ Yermak, ‘just investigate the darn things.’ He claimed he was acting as a private citizen, despite the State Department eventually saying it had facilitated the meeting.
The complaint may not concern ‘members of the intelligence community.’
The president is not considered a member of the intelligence community. Vokler works for the State Department; Giuliani is a private citizen.
The complaint may not concern an ‘intelligence activity’ according to the Director of National Intelligence’s office
A call between the president and the foreign leader is not ‘an intelligence acitivty.’ The actions of other government officials – the State Department – and private U.S. citizens – Giuliani – may not be an ‘intelligence activity’ either because they are not members of the intelligence community
The complaint is covered by ‘privilege,’ and ‘confidentiality’ according to the DNI’s office
The very first assertion of executive privilege – by George Washington – was over talks with foreign governments, so Trump would be following a precedent that goes back to the Founding Fathers by saying talking to a foreign leader is privileged. His dealings with Giuliani as his attorney would be subject to attorney-client privilege
The Director of National Intelligence’s office has declined to rule out that the complaint is about an area already being investigated
The House Intelligence Committee announced an investigation into the call and Trump’s actions in Ukraine on September 9, to be held jointly with the Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees