Trump meets with Ukraine president at UN under cloud of controversy

Trump meets with Ukraine president at UN under cloud of controversy
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Romney: 'Unthinkable and unacceptable' to not commit to peaceful transition of power Two Louisville police officers shot amid Breonna Taylor grand jury protests MORE on Wednesday met one-on-one with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, just hours after the release of a transcript of their July 25 phone call that has emerged as the basis for an impeachment inquiry targeting Trump.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Their meeting had quickly become the most anticipated of the gathering of international leaders as information trickled out involving a whistleblower complaint involving Trump's interactions with Ukraine. 

Zelensky appeared reluctant to wade into the controversy when asked if he felt pressured by Trump to investigate Biden, saying he didn’t want to get involved in “elections of USA.”

“We’ve had I think [a] good phone call. It was normal. We spoke about many things," Zelensky said, adding that "nobody pushed me."

“And there was no pressure,” Trump added.

But Trump insisted that Biden, who leads the president in multiple polls of hypothetical 2020 matchups, was guilty of wrongdoing.

Zelensky later clarified that he had not reached out to the country’s prosecutor general to request an investigation into any matter.

Biden’s son, Hunter, worked on the board of a natural gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch while his father served as vice president. Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Democratic groups using Bloomberg money to launch M in Spanish language ads in Florida Harris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle MORE pushed in 2016 for the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor who had the gas company in his sights but had also been accused of overlooking corruption in his own office.

There’s no indication Joe Biden was acting with his son’s interests in mind and the former vice president has denied doing so.

Wednesday’s meeting between Trump and Zelensky had a light-hearted tone at times, despite the seriousness of the allegations surrounding it.

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"He’s made me for famous and I’ve made him more famous,” Trump joked at the start of the meeting.

Trump credited Zelensky with “strongly looking into all sorts of corruption” and described the Ukrainian leader’s reputation as “sterling.”

Zelensky quipped that he hoped to visit the White House soon, but that Trump had forgotten to give him the date.

The transcript released earlier Wednesday revealed Trump had urged Zelensky to look into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's role in the 2016 ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor who had been accused of overlooking corruption. 

Trump told Zelensky to get in touch with his personal attorney, Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiThe Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting CIA found Putin 'probably directing' campaign against Biden: report Democrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate MORE, and Attorney General William BarrBill BarrHarris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle Hillicon Valley: DOJ proposes tech liability shield reform to Congress | Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities | House Republican introduces bill to set standards for self-driving cars McCarthy threatens motion to oust Pelosi if she moves forward with impeachment MORE on the matter.

Asked during Wednesday's meeting why Giuliani was involved, Trump suggested reporters talk to the former New York City mayor.

Trump has denied any improper behavior in the Ukraine saga. He has highlighted the fact that the document released earlier Wednesday did not establish an explicit quid pro quo that made financial aid contingent on an investigation into the Bidens.

Democrats have argued that there was an implicit threat by Trump when he highlighted U.S. aid earlier in the call with Zelensky. Other lawmakers have asserted that an explicit arrangement is not necessary, and that Trump's seeking a foreign power to investigate a domestic political rival is clear enough proof of wrongdoing.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHoyer: House should vote on COVID-19 aid — with or without a bipartisan deal Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in repose at Supreme Court McCarthy threatens motion to oust Pelosi if she moves forward with impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) late Tuesday announced the House would open a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump, describing his behavior as a "betrayal" to the office.

At the end of Wednesday's meeting, Trump took aim at Pelosi with some of his harshest criticism of the Speaker to date.

"She’s lost her way," Trump said. "She’s been taken over by the radical left. She may be radical left herself, but she really has lost her way."

--This report was updated at 2:57 p.m.