The White House released a call transcript on September 25 confirming Donald Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to probe his political rival Joe Biden — a day after Democrats seized on the explosive allegation to launch an impeachment process.
“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,” Mr. Trump told Volodymyr Zelensky in the July 25 call.
As Barack Obama’s Vice-President, Mr. Biden and other Western leaders pressured Ukraine to get rid of the country’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, because he was seen as not tough enough on corruption.
“Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it,” Mr. Trump said.
The five-page document — a summary of the call rather than a word-for-word record — was released as Mr. Trump was preparing to meet Mr. Zelensky on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Democrats, who opened formal impeachment proceedings against the president on September 24, are investigating whether he pressured a foreign government to look into a political opponent, and if he used a $400 million aid package as leverage. There was no mention of the money in the summary.
The July 25 phone call was among the subjects in a whistleblower complaint that has so far not been made available to lawmakers.
The White House had previously blocked the legally required release of the complaint to Congress’ intelligence committees.
Lawyers representing the whistleblower said in a statement on September 24 that there had been a “decision to release the whistleblower complaint”, but did not provide further details.
Exerted ‘no pressure whatsoever’ on Ukraine: Trump
Mr. Trump, however, maintained that he had exerted “no pressure” on Ukraine.
“There was no pressure whatsoever,” Mr. Trump told reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
“It was a friendly letter, there was no pressure,” Mr. Trump repeated, denouncing what he called “the single greatest witch hunt in American history”.