Washington, Sept 21 (AFP/APP):US President Donald Trump on Friday vigorously rejected a whistleblower’s claim of wrongdoing in a call with a foreign leader, amid reports he used the conversation to pressure Ukraine’s president to investigate the son of Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden.
The whistleblower’s secret complaint has triggered a tense showdown between Congress, whose Democratic leaders are demanding to review 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 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.
Trump slammed the story as “ridiculous” and attacked the “partisan whistleblower,” even though he said he does not know the person’s identity.
Trump insisted he had a “totally appropriate” conversation, without detailing with whom, or what was said, and suggested it was Biden and his son who should be investigated for their actions in Ukraine.
Biden shot back forcefully, demanding Trump immediately release the transcript of the call and saying the reports that Trump sought to coerce his Ukrainian counterpart, if true, amounted to “clear-cut corruption.”
Suspicions have focused on a July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian who was elected 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 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.
When asked by reporters whether he discussed the Bidens with Zelensky, Trump said curtly: “It doesn’t matter what I discuss.” But he did not deny having done so.
Instead he urged media to “look into” Biden’s involvement in Ukraine, and his videotaped comments last year in which the former US vice president said the Obama administration would freeze $1 billion in US loan guarantees unless Kiev did not fire its top prosecutor.
“Somebody ought to look into that,” Trump said.