Trump says he didn't threaten military aid to Ukraine while decrying corruption

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE on Monday said that he did not threaten to withhold military aid if Ukraine did not investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report Giuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry MORE and his family.

"I did not make a statement that you have to do this or I’m not going to give you aid," Trump told reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

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"I wouldn't do that. With that being said, what I want is I want — you know, we’re giving a lot of money away to Ukraine and other places. You want to see a country that's going to be not corrupt," Trump continued.

Trump later said it would “probably” have been appropriate if he did put pressure on Ukraine but again insisted that he didn’t.

"I put no pressure on them whatsoever. I could have. I think it would probably, possibly have been OK if I did. But I didn’t. I didn’t put any pressure on them whatsoever," Trump continued.

Trump has faced mounting scrutiny in the wake of reports that he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a July 25 phone call to investigate Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, over allegations of corruption.

Democrats and other critics have raised the possibility that there was a quid pro quo involved in the effort. The call came at a time when the Trump administration had delayed military aid to Ukraine. The administration released the $250 million in aid earlier this month after the delay was met with bipartisan concerns on Capitol Hill.

Trump appeared to acknowledge on Sunday that he had discussed Joe Biden on the call with Zelensky, which is said to be the subject of an intelligence community whistleblower complaint, but denied that there was a quid pro quo involved and called the conversation “perfect.”

Trump and his allies, without offering any evidence, have accused Joe Biden of pressing for the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor while vice president in 2016 in order to prevent an investigation into a Ukrainian energy company, which Hunter Biden worked for at the time. Joe Biden has dismissed the allegations, accusing the president of abusing his office to try to smear him.

Still, Trump has doubled down on the allegations over the past several days amid controversy and claimed the media is not reporting on them.

"Joe Biden was very dishonest what he did. What he did is he said if they don’t do this or that and get rid of a certain prosecutor. Joe Biden said it. But because you’re a faker, you in particular — you’re a fake news group of people — you don’t want to report that," Trump told reporters Monday afternoon during a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Trump also claimed a Republican who did the same would get “the electric chair.”

“If a Republican ever did what Joe Biden did, if a Republican ever said what Joe Biden said, they’d be getting the electric chair by right now,” Trump said. 

“Look at the double standards. You people ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Not all of you. We have some great journalists around. But we’ve got a lot of crooked journalists,” Trump said, calling the reporters “crooked as hell.” 

Trump also said he hoped reporters would see a transcript of his call with Zelensky so he would be proved right before signaling he would not release it because it would set a bad precedent.

"I can do it very easily, but I’d rather not do it from the standpoint of all of the other conversations I have. I may do it because it was a very innocent call," Trump said. "It may get released. I don’t think it’s a great precedent to be releasing calls with heads of foreign countries."

The controversy surrounding the president’s contacts with Ukraine has all but eclipsed Trump’s appearance at the U.N. meeting in New York, where he is due to meet with Zelensky in person on Wednesday.

Earlier Monday, Trump defended the idea of raising corruption issues with foreign leaders, telling reporters it was fair to ask about corruption while deciding whether to provide aid to a foreign government.

Trump also shared a video circulated by his campaign that he claimed gave weight to his allegations. The video shows Biden denying speaking to his son about his business dealings, interspersed with separate clips of Biden explaining how, during his time as vice president, he threatened aid if Ukraine didn't remove a prosecutor who had been accused of corruption. The clip does not show Biden connecting his effort to have the prosecutor removed to his son's business dealings. 

—Updated on Sept. 24 at 7:43 a.m.