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Trump defends conversation with Ukrainian president

President Trump spoke with reporters Sunday at the

President Trump spoke with reporters Sunday at the South Lawn of the White House. Credit: RON SACHS/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/RON SACHS/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

President Donald Trump on Sunday defended his July phone call with the Ukrainian president and appeared to say former Vice President Joe Biden came up in the discussion alleged to be the focus of a whistleblower's complaint.

Meanwhile, Democrats ratcheted up calls for an investigation into whether the president behaved inappropriately on the call and pressured a foreign government to investigate a political rival. Biden is leading Democratic polls to challenge Trump for the presidency in 2020.

Trump told reporters on the South Lawn Sunday there was no "quid pro quo" with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during the July 25 conversation. Trump said the conversation was "absolutely perfect." 

The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have reported that Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate the former vice president's son, Hunter Biden, eight times during the call. According to published reports, the United States had been withholding military aid from the Ukraine, which is fighting separatists controlled by the Russian government.

Later Sunday, Trump told reporters in Houston that he would consider releasing a transcript of the call.

"We'll make a determination about how to release it, releasing it, saying what we said," Trump said.

Trump said the conversation with Zelensky "was largely congratulatory, 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 [contributing] to the corruption already in the Ukraine, and Ukraine has got a lot of problems."

A government inspector general has described the complaint as "serious" and "urgent." However, the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has blocked its release to Congress, despite a requirement under the law to provide it.

On Saturday, Trump decried the "Ukraine Witch Hunt." He has called for investigations into the Bidens.

Rudy Giuliani, the personal attorney for Trump, told CNN anchor Chris Cuomo on Thursday "of course I did," when Cuomo asked if Giuliani requested Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.

Giuliani said Thursday he met with Ukrainian officials to ask them to reopen a closed investigation into whether Biden had, as vice president, withheld U.S. aid in order to pressure the country into firing a prosecutor who was investigating a Ukraine gas company to which his son Hunter was financially linked.

Trump accused Biden Sunday of misrepresentations, saying he “made the mistake of saying he never spoke to his son."

“I’m not looking to hurt Biden, but he did a very dishonest thing,” Trump said.

Biden told reporters Saturday, "You should be asking him the question, why is he on the phone with a foreign leader, trying to intimidate a foreign leader ... Trump's doing this because he knows I'll beat him like a drum, and he's using the abuse of power and every element of the presidency to try to do something to smear me."

Trump on Sunday criticized the alleged whistleblower for sounding "false alarms."

 "You can't have that happen to a president of the United States ... you can't have people doing this," Trump said on the South Lawn.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," “I wasn’t on the call, but I have no reason to believe that the president pressured or anything else any foreign leader."

Mnuchin told CNN host Jake Tapper, "I think things are being implied that just don't exist."

Meanwhile Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that breach of the law could prompt impeachment proceedings.

"The president is pushing us down this road," Schiff said. "We may very well have crossed the Rubicon here."

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