Mulvaney admission deals blow to White House impeachment defense
Trump asked Ukraine president to investigate Biden's son eight times in one phone call: reports
President Trump reportedly pressured the president of Ukraine during a July phone call to investigate the son of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.
The Wall Street Journal first reported Friday that Trump told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky roughly eight times to work with his personal attorney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, on the matter.
The president's contacts with Ukraine have come under intense scrutiny after an intelligence whistleblower filed a complaint related to his communications with the nation.
The White House declined a request for comment.
Biden, exiting a campaign event shortly after the story broke, declined to address the report directly but called the allegations of any wrongdoing in Ukraine baseless.
"Not one single credible outlet has given any credibility to his assertions - not one single one. And so I have no comment, except the president should start to be president," Biden told reporters.
Trump was asked earlier Friday whether he had discussed Biden or his son with the Ukrainian president. Trump did not deny that he had, saying "it doesn't matter what I discuss."
"But I will say this: Somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement, because it was disgraceful," he added.
The president has further dismissed the whistleblower complaint as a "political hack job" and decried the whistleblower as "partisan."
But Trump acknowledged that he has not read the complaint and that he does not know the individual's identity. He also said he wasn't aware of the specific call under scrutiny.
Trump's allies have seized on Biden's connection to Ukraine in an attempt to paint the former Delaware senator 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. Then-Vice President 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 Giuliani, have claimed that the former vice president should be further investigated in Ukraine.
Giuliani appeared on CNN Thursday night, at first denying and then acknowledging during a highly contentious segment with host Chris Cuomo that he had asked Ukraine to look into allegations against Joe Biden.
The conversation in question took place on July 25. A readout of the call from Ukraine 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.
The Wall Street Journal's report, which was quickly confirmed by The Washington Post, is sure to amplify scrutiny of the whistleblower complaint, which has been the subject of intense media attention and speculation over the past few days after its existence was revealed by House House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
The intelligence community inspector general met behind closed doors with lawmakers on Thursday but repeatedly declined to offer lawmakers information about the complaint. The Trump administration has refused to share information with Congress about the matter, according to House Democrats, who have grown furious over the past several days.
"We must be sure that the President and his Administration are conducting our national security and foreign policy in the best interest of the American people, not the President's personal interest," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement Friday.
"The President and Acting [Director of National Intelligence's] stonewalling must end immediately, and the whistleblower must be provided with every protection guaranteed by the law to defend the integrity of our government and ensure accountability and trust," she said.
Joseph Maguire, the acting intelligence chief, is slated to testify publicly before Congress next week.
Meanwhile, Trump is slated to meet with Zelensky on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week, a senior administration official told reporters earlier Friday.
"President Trump is going to focus on again congratulating President Zelensky on his election victory and the incredible energy and success that Zelensky has put forward in implementing reform and anti-corruption efforts," the official said.
-Updated at 4:52 p.m.