Trump declines to say whether he discussed Joe Biden in call with Ukrainian president


SEPTEMBER 20, 2019

President Trump speaks at a White House event Monday. – Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

President Trump declined to say Friday whether he had discussed Joe Biden or his family during a July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that has drawn intense scrutiny, but he told reporters that “someone ought to look into” the former vice president.

Trump’s call with Zelensky is under investigation by House Democrats, who are examining whether Trump and his attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, sought to manipulate the Ukrainian government into helping Trump’s reelection campaign by seeking information that could be damaging to Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate.

The call has drawn heightened attention in recent days amid revelations that an intelligence official filed a whistleblower complaint that involved communications with a foreign leader and that the communication centered on Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the matter.

In May, Giuliani canceled a controversial planned trip to Ukraine that he had admitted was intended to apply pressure on its government to investigate Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and his work for a Ukrainian gas company that had previously been of interest to investigators in the country.

Asked Friday if he had discussed Biden with Zelensky, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, “It doesn’t matter what I discussed.”

He added that his conversations with world leaders are “always appropriate, at the highest level always appropriate.”

Trump also labeled the whistleblower “partisan” but said he did not know his or her identity.

His comments at the White House came after morning tweets in which Trump freshly denied having had a “dicey” phone call that is central to the potentially explosive whistleblower complaint and blamed the controversy on “Radical Left Democrats and their Fake News Media partners.”

The whistleblower complaint was filed 2½ weeks after Trump’s call with Zelensky.

Democrats and journalists “think I may have had a ‘dicey’ conversation with a certain foreign leader based on a ‘highly partisan’ whistleblowers statement,” Trump said. “Strange that with so many other people hearing or knowing of the perfectly fine and respectful conversation, that they would not have also come forward. Do you know the reason why they did not? Because there was nothing said wrong, it was pitch perfect!”

The whistleblower complaint involved communications with a foreign leader and a “promise” that Trump made, which so alarmed a U.S. intelligence official who had worked at the White House that the person went to the inspector general of the intelligence community, two former U.S. officials said.

The Democrats’ investigation was launched earlier this month, before revelations that an intelligence official had lodged a complaint with the inspector general. The Washington Post first reported on Wednesday that the complaint had to do with a “promise” that Trump made when communicating with a foreign leader.

In his morning tweets Wednesday, Trump singled out one of the Democrats key to the investigation, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (Calif.).

The president asserted that the “Radical Left Democrats and their Fake News Media partners, headed up again by Little Adam Schiff, and batting Zero for 21 against me, are at it again!”

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he meets with Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the Oval Office on September 20, 2019. – Jonathan Ernst

On Thursday, Schiff warned of possible legal action Thursday if intelligence officials did not share the whistleblower complaint.

Speaking to reporters, Schiff called acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire’s refusal to share the complaint with Congress “unprecedented” and said he understood the Justice Department was involved in that decision.

“We cannot get an answer to the question about whether the White House is also involved in preventing this information from coming to Congress,” Schiff said, adding: “We’re determined to do everything we can to determine what this urgent concern is to make sure that the national security is protected.”

Someone, Schiff said, “is trying to manipulate the system to keep information about an urgent matter from the Congress. . . . There certainly are a lot of indications that it was someone at a higher pay grade than the director of national intelligence.”

On Friday, several House Republicans cautioned against a rush to judgment about what had occurred.

“All these stories, about 90 percent of them, end up far different than what it is the first couple days,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said. “I think we’ll know more on Monday, I just think this is all new, and we’ll see.”

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the newly elected Freedom Caucus chairman, said he does not “know enough about it to register opinion.”

Asked if it concerned him that an intelligence official was worried enough about something Trump said to file a whistleblower complaint, Biggs demurred.

“I don’t know enough to comment on it right now,” he said. “I don’t know anything about it, really.”

Courtesy/Source: Washington Post