WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump repeatedly pressed Ukraine’s president in a July phone call to investigate the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, but didn’t mention pending U.S. aid, according to published reports Friday.
Trump urged President Volodymyr Zelenskiy about eight times to work with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on a Biden investigation to determine whether allegations against him were true or not, according to a Wall Street Journal story, citing unnamed sources.
Trump sought to push the recently elected president, a political novice, to pursue the investigation more aggressively, but did not raise the pending American military and intelligence aid to Ukraine as a quid pro quo, the Washington Post reported, also based on unnamed sources.
The call is part of a whistleblower complaint by a member of the intelligence community that its inspector general found to be “serious” and “urgent” — and that the acting director of national intelligence blocked from Congress, despite a legal requirement.
Giuliani admitted Thursday he had met with Ukrainian officials to urge them to reopen a closed investigation into whether Biden as vice president withheld U.S. aid to pressure Ukraine to fire a prosecutor probing a Ukraine gas company with which his son Hunter was involved.
Trump professed little knowledge of the complaint when he spoke with reporters in the Oval Office where he met with the visiting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“I don’t know the identity of the whistleblower. I just hear it’s a partisan person, meaning it comes out from another party,” Trump said. Asked if he had read the complaint, he said he hadn’t but said everybody who has “laughed at it.”
Trump said all of his conversations with world leaders are “totally appropriate.” Asked about the July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy, Trump said, “It doesn’t matter what I discussed.”
But he then brought up the allegations about Biden and his son and said, “somebody ought to look into that.”
Giuliani said on CNN Thursday night that he didn’t know if Trump had urged an investigation into Biden in the call to Zelenskiy but added, “He had every right to do it.”
Trump is scheduled to meet with Zelenskiy next week on the sidelines of the United National General Assembly in New York City, according to reports.
Biden dismissed the accusation that he intervened in Ukraine to shield his son.
“No single outlet has given any credibility to his assertion,” he told reporters while campaigning in Iowa. He added that his only comment would be: “The president should start to be president.”
Tension has been growing in the past two weeks between Congress and the Trump administration over the refusal of acting DNI Director James Maguire to share the complaint with key congressional committees, despite the requirements of the whistleblower law.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday said Maguire is violating a federal statute, “which unequivocally states that the DNI ‘shall’ provide Congress this information.” She added, “If the President has done what has been alleged, then he is stepping into a dangerous minefield with serious repercussions for his administration and our democracy.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on Thursday threatened to file a lawsuit to force the administration to comply with the law and has scheduled an open hearing next week for Maguire to grill him.
Meanwhile, three House committee chairmen have requested the transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy. They have raised concerns that Trump made the call after suspending $250 million in aid in May.
Trump told reporters he would not release the transcript. “It’s nothing,” he said.