October 20, 2019

Trump Calls Whistle-Blower ‘Partisan’ and Defends Conduct With Other Leaders

Trump Calls Whistle-Blower ‘Partisan’ and Defends Conduct With Other Leaders


WASHINGTON — President Trump dismissed on Friday as a “partisan” attack a whistle-blower complaint said to involve his dealings with Ukraine amid mounting questions about his interactions with the country’s new government.

Details of the complaint remained murky, but the revelation that it was connected at least in part to Ukraine immediately increased scrutiny on Mr. Trump’s relationship with the government in Kiev. He has publicly pushed for Ukraine’s leaders to investigate a political rival, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, and questions have emerged about whether it was related to a White House hold on military aid for Ukraine that it recently released.

“It’s a ridiculous story. It’s a partisan whistle-blower,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, though he also acknowledged he did not know the person’s identity. “They shouldn’t even have information.”

When asked whether he had brought up Mr. Biden during a July phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, Mr. Trump waved away the question but added, “Someone ought to look into Joe Biden.”

The existence of the complaint, submitted by a member of the intelligence community to its inspector general, emerged late last week and exploded into the open late on Wednesday when The Washington Post reported that it concerned Mr. Trump. The administration has not shared the complaint with Congress, as is generally required by law, angering Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered a sharp warning to the Trump administration on Friday, saying in a statement that the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, was violating the law by refusing to disclose the complaint to Congress.

“If the president has done what has been alleged, then he is stepping into a dangerous minefield with serious repercussions for his administration and our democracy,” she said in a statement.

After the Ukraine link emerged in news reports late Thursday, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani shed more light on it in a rambling CNN appearance, where he first denied, then admitted, to asking the government in Kiev to investigate the Bidens.

Mr. Giuliani has spearheaded a push for such an inquiry. He met with Mr. Zelensky’s emissaries this summer in hopes of encouraging his government to ramp up investigations into two matters regarding the Biden family: the question of any overlap with Mr. Biden’s diplomatic dealings with Ukraine, as well as the details of his son’s involvement in a gas company there.

Mr. Giuliani has said he was acting on his own, though his comments on Thursday seemed to draw a closer connection to Mr. Trump. “A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job,” Mr. Giuliani wrote on Twitter shortly after his appearance on CNN asserting the same thought.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky will meet next week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, a senior administration official confirmed after Mr. Zelensky’s office announced the meeting on Friday.

In recent weeks, congressional aides and administration officials who work on Ukraine issues had become concerned that the White House was delaying the military assistance package for Kiev, according to people involved in an effort to free up the assistance.

Three Democratic House committee chairmen have requested the transcript of the president’s July 25 call with Mr. Zelensky from the State Department and the White House as part of an investigation into whether Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani were misappropriating the American foreign policy apparatus for political gain.

Vice President Mike Pence, who recently met with Mr. Zelensky in Poland, denied bringing up Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to investigate Mr. Biden in their conversations, but said Mr. Trump was still making the decision on “the latest tranche of financial support.”

Mr. Trump also sought to allay concerns about his dealings with other foreign leaders. Part of the whistle-blower’s complaint deals with an unspecified commitment he made to an unnamed foreign leader, a person familiar with it has said. Mr. Trump also said on Friday that he did not know the leader in question.

“I had a great conversation with numerous people, numerous leaders, and I always look for the conversation that’s going to help the United States the most,” he said. Sitting alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, who had just arrived for a state visit, Mr. Trump called his communications with other leaders “always appropriate.”



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