United States President Donald Trump has denied a whistle-blower’s claim of wrongdoing in a call with a foreign leader, amid reports he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate the son of Democratic political rival Joe Biden, who demanded the transcript of the call released immediately.
The whistle-blower’s complaint has triggered a tense showdown between the US Congress, whose Democratic leaders are demanding the review of the complaint, and the executive branch which has barred them from doing so.
It has also raised concerns Trump sought to strong-arm Ukraine into providing damaging information on the president’s possible 2020 challenger, which would represent dangerous foreign meddling in the US election similar to the interference blamed on Russia in 2016, when Trump defeated Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
According to a report by The Washington Post, which cited two unnamed former US officials, the complaint stemmed from Trump’s communications with Ukraine, and a “promise” allegedly made by the president.
Suspicions have focused on a July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian who assumed office in May.
Trump’s Democratic opponents have been probing that call in connection with allegations Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani tried to pressure the Ukrainian administration.
The Wall Street Journal meanwhile reported that Trump pressed Zelensky about eight times on the call to investigate possible corruption involving Biden’s son Hunter, who worked with a Ukrainian natural gas company.
Trump on Friday defended himself, angrily declaring that the “ridiculous” story came from a “partisan whistle-blower,” even though he did not know the person’s identity.
Trump insisted he had a “totally appropriate” conversation, without detailing with whom, or what was said.
When asked by reporters whether he discussed the Bidens with Zelensky, Trump replied: “It doesn’t matter what I discuss.”
He did not deny having done so, but instead urged media to “look into” Biden’s involvement in Ukraine, and his videotaped comments last year in which the ex-US vice president said the former President Barack Obama’s administration would freeze $1bn in US loan guarantees, unless Kiev did not fire its top prosecutor.