Trump on whistleblower complaint: Focus should be on Biden instead

President Trump on Friday dismissed growing scrutiny over a whistleblower complaint that reportedly raised concerns about a conversation he had with a Ukrainian leader, saying the focus should instead be on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s ties to Ukraine during his time as vice president.

“It doesn’t matter what I discussed, but I’ll tell you this, somebody ought to look into Joe Biden’s statement,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with the Australian prime minister.

The president added that his conversations with foreign leaders are “always appropriate.”

{mosads}Trump said he did not know who the whistleblower is but derided the complaint as “partisan” and “ridiculous” and asserted that Biden is getting a pass because he’s a Democrat.

“The fake news doesn’t look into things like that,” he said. “It’s a disgrace.”

“Keep asking questions and build it up as big as possible so you can have a bigger downfall,” he added.

The whistleblower complaint has been the subject of intense interest in recent days after The Washington Post first reported on Wednesday that it involved Trump making a “promise” to a foreign leader. The Post and The New York Times later reported that the incident in question involved Ukraine.

Further driving scrutiny about the complaint is the administration’s decision to release military aid to Ukraine after a delay that had frustrated lawmakers in both parties.

The inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, declined to discuss the details of the whistleblower complaint with members of the House Intelligence Committee during a closed door meeting on Thursday.

The specifics of the complaint are mostly unknown. But Trump’s handling of sensitive information has come under criticism in the past, and Democrats pushing for the president’s impeachment are likely to seize on any indications that he pressed an ally to investigate an opponent or that he politicized intelligence information.

Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke in July. A readout of the call from Ukraine published on July 25 said Trump was “convinced” that the recently elected government would be able to “quickly improve image of Ukraine,” and “complete [the] investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA.”

A White House readout of the call said the two leaders discussed energy and economic cooperation, but made no mention of corruption.

“I really don’t know,” Trump said when asked Friday if the July 25 conversation was the subject of the whistleblower complaint.

Trump earlier Friday had dismissed the whistleblower as “highly partisan” and insisted that the conversation in question was “pitch perfect.”

The president’s allies have seized on Biden’s connection to Ukraine in an attempt to paint the former vice president and front-runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination as corrupt.
Biden’s son Hunter worked with a natural gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch. Biden pushed in 2016 for the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor who had been accused of overlooking corruption in his own office.
While there’s no indication Biden was acting with his son’s interests in mind, Trump’s allies, including attorney Rudy Giuliani, have claimed that the former vice president should be further investigated in Ukraine.

Giuliani acknowledged in a CNN interview on Thursday night that he had asked Ukraine to investigate Biden.

“At minimum, Donald Trump should immediately release the transcript of the call in question, so that the American people can judge for themselves, and direct the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to stop stonewalling and release the whistleblower notification to the Congress,” Biden said in a statement Friday night.

Biden said that if reports about Trump are accurate, “then there is truly no bottom to President Trump’s willingness to abuse his power and abase our country.”

“Such clear-cut corruption damages and diminishes our institutions of government by making them tools of a personal political vendetta,” he said.

Updated at 6:50 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden Rudy Giuliani Ukraine whistleblower complaint

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