Trump shares Ukraine de­tails

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By John T. Ben­nett

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Mon­day de­nied hold­ing up a U.S. aid pack­age to Ukraine if its then-in­com­ing pres­i­dent re­fused to in­ves­ti­gate for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den and his son.

“I did not make a state­ment that you have to do this or I won’t give you aid,” he told re­porters on the side­lines of an U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly ses­sion in New York.

Demo­cratic law­mak­ers and 2020 White House hope­fuls spent much of last week and the week­end say­ing Trump broke the law by do­ing just that, which would have the pres­i­dent seek­ing a per­sonal ben­e­fit and try­ing to use U.S. gov­ern­ment re­sources to do so, which could vi­o­late fed­eral laws.

The call in­cluded an al­leged “prom­ise” by Trump to Ze­len­sky that caused an U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial to file a for­mal com­plaint; the ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­fus­ing to turn over the com­plaint doc­u­ment to Congress, as re­quired by law.

But ear­lier Mon­day, the pres­i­dent all but con­firmed he dis­cussed Joe and Hunter Bi­den with Volodomyr Ze­len­sky dur­ing a July 25 tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion.

“It’s very im­por­tant to talk about cor­rup­tion. If you don’t talk about cor­rup­tion, why would you give money to a coun­try that you think is cor­rupt?” he told re­porters. “It’s very im­por­tant that, on oc­ca­sion, you speak to some­body about cor­rup­tion.”

As vice pres­i­dent, Joe Bi­den came un­der scru­tiny from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion State Depart­ment and me­dia for push­ing for Ukraine’s pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment to crack down on cor­rup­tion while Hunter Bi­den served on the en­ergy com­pany’s board of direc­tors. Some in the State Depart­ment raised con­cerns about con­flicts of in­ter­est.

No gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties in the United States nor Ukraine has sug­gested Joe or Hunter Bi­den acted in­ap­pro­pri­ately or broke any laws.

Trump opened the line of at­tack on Bi­den last week as RealClearP­ol­i­tics’ av­er­age of a hand­ful of pub­lic opin­ion polls shows gave the for­mer vice pres­i­dent and long­time Delaware sen­a­tor an 11.7-per­cent­age point lead na­tion­ally over Trump in a hy­po­thet­i­cal gen­eral elec­tion race.

An an­i­mated Bi­den over the week­end ac­cused the pres­i­dent of cre­at­ing a straw man out of pure po­lit­i­cal des­per­a­tion.

“This ap­pears to be an over­whelm­ing abuse of power to get on the phone with a for­eign leader who is look­ing for help from the United States and ask about me and im­ply things,” Bi­den told re­porters in Iowa.

On Mon­day, Trump con­tin­ued his line of at­tack, say­ing, with­out spec­i­fy­ing, that Bi­den “did a very, very bad thing.”

Se­nior Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California have tried to push the pres­i­dent into a cor­ner by say­ing if he did noth­ing wrong dur­ing the tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion, he should merely make the tran­script pub­lic.

The pres­i­dent didn’t make a solid com­mit­ment on Mon­day. In­stead, he merely said the White House “may” or­der its re­lease.

“I hope you will get to see the call,” Trump said, con­tra­dict­ing top aides yet again. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, a for­mer Kansas GOP con­gress­man, has said the ad­min­is­tra­tion is un­likely to make the call’s tran­script pub­lic; he and other of­fi­cials say it would set a dan­ger­ous “prece­dent” be­cause any pres­i­dent needs to be able to talk can­didly with other world lead­ers.

But Trump and his at­tor­ney, for­mer New York Mayor Ru­dolph Gi­u­liani, have sig­naled he did press Ze­len­sky to, once in of­fice, open an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Bi­dens.

“How much money did his son make from Ukraine?” Trump said Mon­day af­ter­noon as the mat­ter dom­i­nated his first of three days at the Gen­eral As­sem­bly ses­sion.

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