UNITED NATIONS — President Donald Trump said he would release on Wednesday a "fully declassified and unredacted" transcript of his July phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky amid increasing scrutiny of an exchange that reportedly involved Trump's request for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
"I am currently at the United Nations representing our Country, but have authorized the release tomorrow of the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript of my phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine," Trump tweeted Tuesday afternoon.
In follow-up tweets and statements to reporters, Trump continued to deny he made any improper requests of Zelensky, and he accused congressional Democrats of engaging in "presidential harassment!" after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced House Democrats were launching a formal impeachment inquiry.
"You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call," Trump said on Twitter.
Trump dismissed news reports indicating he called on White House and Pentagon officials to withhold $400 million in U.S. foreign aid to Ukraine before pressing Zelensky to investigate Biden, who is staging a bid to unseat Trump in 2020, and who routinely leads Trump in national polls.
The Washington Post and New York Times reported late Monday night that Trump had directed his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to order a hold on the foreign aid before his July 25 call with Zelensky.
“As far as withholding funds, those funds were paid, they were fully paid,” Trump told reporters just before he was slated to address the United Nations General Assembly.
Trump said he initially called for the military aid funding to be withheld to ensure other European countries were also contributing aid to Ukraine.
“I want other countries to put up money…. Germany, France, other countries should put up money,” Trump told reporters.
The European Union has provided more than 15 billion euros — nearly $16.5 billion — in aid to Ukraine since 2014, in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, according to figures available on the E.U. website.
Trump, taking questions from reporters at the top of a meeting with the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, acknowledged asking Mulvaney to withhold the aid, and said he also discussed the matter with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
The Post, citing officials familiar with Trump’s request, said administration officials were told to tell lawmakers inquiring about the delayed funding that the delays were part of an “interagency process.” The money was withheld for nearly two months, until released on Sept. 11.
Trump's July 25 call with Zelensky is reportedly the source of a whistleblower complaint filed by a U.S. intelligence official. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times have reported that Trump, on the call, repeatedly pressed Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s role as a board member of a Ukrainian gas company. Ukraine’s current prosecutor has said there is no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or his son, according to a report by Bloomberg News.
Congressional Democrats have demanded the White House release a transcript of the call and have called for hearings into the whistleblower complaint that the Trump administration has refused to turn over to lawmakers as required by law.
A growing number of Democrats have called for impeachment hearings citing their concerns that the president may have pressed a foreign nation for political dirt.
Asked about the calls for impeachment, Trump told reporters: “I think it’s ridiculous. It’s a witch hunt.”
“They have no idea how they stop me the only way they can try is through impeachment,” Trump said. “It’s nonsense, and when you see the call, when you see the readout of the call, which I assume you’ll see at some point, you’ll understand. That call was perfect.”
The transcript's release coincides with Trump's expected 2 p.m. meeting with Zelensky at the UN on Wednesday. The president is also scheduled to address reporters at a previously scheduled 4 p.m. news conference.