Trump sought in­quiry of Bi­den son

Pres­i­dent: Com­plaint about Ukraine came from par­ti­san source

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Jonathan Lemire, Michael Balsamo and Lisa Mascaro

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump urged the new leader of Ukraine this sum­mer to in­ves­ti­gate the son of for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said Fri­day. Democrats con­demned what they saw as a clear ef­fort to dam­age a po­lit­i­cal ri­val, now at the heart of an ex­plo­sive whistle­blower com­plaint against Trump.

It was the lat­est rev­e­la­tion in an es­ca­lat­ing con­tro­versy that has cre­ated a show­down be­tween con­gres­sional Democrats and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has re­fused to turn over the for­mal com­plaint by a na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cial or even de­scribe its con­tents.

Trump de­fended him­self Fri­day against the in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial’s com­plaint, an­grily declar­ing it came from a “par­ti­san whistle­blower,” though he also said he didn’t know who had made it. The com­plaint was based on a series of events, one of which was a July 25 call be­tween Trump and Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy, ac­cord­ing to a two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter. The peo­ple were not au­tho­rized to discuss the is­sue by name and were granted anonymity.

Trump, in that call, urged Ze­len­skiy to probe the ac­tiv­i­ties of po­ten­tial Demo­cratic ri­val Bi­den’s son Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas com­pany, ac­cord­ing to one of the peo­ple, who was briefed on the call. Trump did not raise the is­sue of U.S. aid to Ukraine, in­di­cat­ing there was not an ex­plicit quid pro quo, ac­cord­ing to the per­son.

Bi­den re­acted strongly late Fri­day, say­ing that if the re­ports are true, “then there is truly no bot­tom to Pres­i­dent Trump’s will­ing­ness to abuse his power and abase our coun­try.”

He said Trump should re­lease the tran­script of his July phone con­ver­sa­tion with Ze­len­skiy “so that the Amer­i­can peo­ple can judge for them­selves.”

The gov­ern­ment’s in­tel­li­gence in­spec­tor gen­eral has de­scribed the whistle­blower’s Aug. 12 com­plaint as “se­ri­ous” and “ur­gent.” But Trump dis­missed it all on Fri­day, in­sist­ing “it’s noth­ing.”

He scolded re­porters for ask­ing about it and said it was “just an­other po­lit­i­cal hack job.”

“I have con­ver­sa­tions with many lead­ers. It’s al­ways ap­pro­pri­ate. Al­ways ap­pro­pri­ate,” Trump said. “At the high­est level al­ways ap­pro­pri­ate. And any­thing I do, I fight for this coun­try.”

Trump, who took ques­tions in the Oval Of­fice along­side Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son whom he was host­ing for a state visit, was asked if he knew if the whistle­blower’s com­plaint cen­tered on his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Ze­len­skiy. The pres­i­dent re­sponded, “I re­ally don’t know,” but he con­tin­ued to in­sist any phone call he made with a head of state was “per­fectly fine and re­spect­ful.”

Trump was asked Fri­day if he brought up Bi­den in the call with Ze­len­skiy, and he an­swered, “It doesn’t mat­ter what I dis­cussed.”

But then he used the mo­ment to urge the me­dia “to look into” Bi­den’s back­ground with Ukraine.

Trump and Ze­len­skiy are to meet next week on the side­lines of the United Na­tions. The Wall Street Jour­nal first re­ported that Trump pressed Ze­len­skiy about Bi­den.

The stand­off with Congress raises fresh ques­tions about the ex­tent to which Trump’s ap­pointees are pro­tect­ing the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent from over­sight and, specif­i­cally, whether his new act­ing di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence, Joseph Maguire, is work­ing with the Jus­tice De­part­ment to shield the pres­i­dent.

Democrats say the ad­min­is­tra­tion is legally re­quired to give Congress ac­cess to the whistle­blower’s com­plaint, and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has said he will go to court in an ef­fort to get it if nec­es­sary.

The in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s in­spec­tor gen­eral said the mat­ter in­volves the “most sig­nif­i­cant” re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of in­tel­li­gence lead­er­ship.

Schiff said Trump’s at­tack on the whistle­blower was dis­turb­ing and raised con­cerns that it would have a chill­ing ef­fect on other po­ten­tial ex­posers of wrong­do­ing.

He also said it was “deeply dis­turb­ing” that the White House ap­peared to know more about the com­plaint than its in­tended re­cip­i­ent — Congress.

The in­for­ma­tion “de­serves a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Schiff said. “Come hell or high wa­ter, that’s what we’re go­ing to do.”

House Democrats also are fight­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion for ac­cess to wit­nesses and doc­u­ments in im­peach­ment probes.

In the whistle­blower case, law­mak­ers are look­ing into whether Trump lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani trav­eled to Ukraine to pres­sure the gov­ern­ment to aid the pres­i­dent’s re­elec­tion ef­fort by in­ves­ti­gat­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties of Bi­den’s son.

Dur­ing a ram­bling in­ter­view Thurs­day on CNN, Gi­u­liani was asked whether he had asked Ukraine to look into Bi­den. He ini­tially said, “No, ac­tu­ally I didn’t,” but sec­onds later he said, “Of course I did.”

Gi­u­liani has spent months try­ing to drum up po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing ev­i­dence about Bi­den’s ties to Ukraine. He told CNN that Trump was un­aware of his ac­tions. “I did what I did on my own,” he said. “I told him about it after­ward.

ALEX EDEL­MAN/GETTY-AFP

Pres­i­dent Trump said he and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy are to meet next week on the side­lines of the U.N.

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