Trump says he did not threaten Ukrainian president
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday denied threatening Ukraine's leader during a telephone conversation that has become the foundation for an impeachment investigation he is facing.
The president continued to dismiss the controversy surrounding the call, in which he asked Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, saying the scrutiny is "a big hoax."
"It's a joke. Impeachment, for that? When you have a wonderful meeting or a wonderful phone conversation?" Trump asked rhetorically during his closing press conference at the 74th UN General Assembly. "I didn't threaten anybody."
"No push, no pressure, no nothing," he added.
Trump further said he will release a transcript of a second phone call he had with Zelensky after the White House earlier Wednesday released a rough transcript of the call that kicked off the controversy.
In that memo, which the White House said was based on notes and recollections and was not verbatim, Trump asks Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son over so far uncorroborated allegations of corruption.
"I would like you to do us a favor," Trump said after Zelensky raised the issue of arms purchases from the U.S., according to the transcript.
"There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution, and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great," Trump said. "I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call, and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call, and we will get to the bottom of it. I'm sure you will figure it out."
Trump was referring to his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Revelations of a whistle-blower complaint regarding the call and ensuing claims Trump sought to hold up hundreds of millions of dollars in military funding to Ukraine that was already appropriated by Congress to leverage Zelensky have prompted the House of Representatives to open an impeachment probe into Trump.
If Trump did so, it would be an improper use of his office, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said when announcing the investigation that could eventually lead to Trump's ouster that "the president must be held accountable."
Biden is the leading Democratic nominee heading into the 2020 presidential race, making him a clear political rival to the president.
Trump has acknowledged the call and freezing aid just days before, but he has denied he held up funding to pressure Zelensky, insisting there was no "quid pro quo" -- a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something.
The elder Biden was the point person for Ukraine during the Obama administration and sought to have the country crack down on corruption, which included his successful call for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, which was supported at the time by the international community.
Shokin was reportedly probing Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company whose board the younger Biden joined in 2014, among other cases.
The whistle-blower whose complaint brought the incident into the public realm has asked to speak before the House Intelligence Committee, and Adam Schiff, its chairman, said the session could happen as soon as this week.
The individual's complaint was referred by the intelligence community's inspector general to the Justice Department in August as a possible campaign finance violation.
"Relying on established procedures set forth in the Justice Manual, the Department's Criminal Division reviewed the official record of the call and determined, based on the facts and applicable law, that there was no campaign finance violation and that no further action was warranted," said Kerri Kupec, the department spokeswoman.
The relevant agencies within the department concurred with the finding, and the matter has since been closed, Kupec added.