Trump seeks to shift questions from impeachment at UN

Trump seeks to shift questions from impeachment at UN
© Getty Images

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 Wednesday capped a chaotic three days at the United Nations with a subdued 40-minute press conference in which he sought to defend himself against allegations of improper interactions with the leader of Ukraine.

Trump alternated between lashing out at Democrats and the media over the controversy surrounding his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and appearing drained in the face of a mounting threat of impeachment.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Well I thought we won. I thought it was dead,” Trump said when asked if he was prepared for a long impeachment fight.

He took questions from just four different reporters, a far cry from his marathon 90-minute presser that closed out last year’s U.N. summit.

The president rambled at times, sounded downtrodden at points of the presser and lacked the combativeness that has been a signature of many of his exchanges with the press. On several occasions, he actively sought to steer the conversation away from the House impeachment inquiry.

“I’d love some questions on some of the things that we accomplished at UNGA instead of the phony witch hunt questions,” Trump told reporters after declaring the gathering of world leaders had been “very fruitful.”

“How about one more question. Question on the economy,” he said near the end of the press conference, patting the side of the podium with one hand and scanning the crowd before calling on a Venezuelan reporter.

The bulk of the event was consumed by a rambling 20-minute opening statement in which Trump spring-boarded from topic to topic. He also invited Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats warn State Dept against punishing individuals who testify in impeachment hearings Pompeo condemns 'deplorable' killings of Iraqi protesters MORE and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinNew book questions Harris's record on big banks On The Money: US paid record .1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed Democrats ramp up oversight efforts over 'opportunity zone' incentive MORE to give brief remarks.

The president touted progress on his long-promised border wall at the southern border, highlighted new agreements with Central American countries to have them take in more asylum-seekers and cited a narrow trade agreement with Japan as noteworthy takeaways from the trip.

Trump did lash out at his critics about impeachment and the Ukraine controversy.

“Much of the press is not only fake, it’s corrupt. These stories they write are corrupt, they’re so wrong,” he said. “It used to be, I used to get great press until I ran for politics. I mean, I used to be the king of getting good press.”

The White House on Wednesday morning released a rough transcript of Trump's July 25 call with Zelensky, which revealed that Trump had urged the Ukrainian leader to look into 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.

Democratic committee leaders called the document “damning,” while Trump insisted there was “no pressure” put on Zelensky.

The president opened his press conference by saying he would support transparency for a whistleblower complaint that deals with his July call with Zelensky. 

He went on to claim that Democrats who traveled to Ukraine were also guilty of interceding in a foreign government's dealings.

The president had sought to diffuse the Ukraine controversy by authorizing the release of the transcript, but it in some ways made matters worse as Democrats seized on an exchange in which Trump pushed Zelensky to “look into” Biden and work with Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGiuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry Giuliani associate Lev Parnas discussed Ukraine with Trump at private dinner: report Democrats face make-or-break moment on impeachment MORE and Attorney General Bill Barr.

“I was getting such fake news and I just thought it would be better,” Trump said when asked why he opted to release the conversation.

The president, perhaps sensing that revealing more information would help his cause, told reporters at the news conference that maybe Congress would want to review his April conversation with Zelensky or two discussions between the Ukrainian president and Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats announce public impeachment hearings with eight witnesses next week Haley seeks to quell talk she could replace Pence MORE.

“I think you should ask for [Vice President] Pence’s conversation because he had a couple of conversations also,” Trump said. “I could save you a lot of time. They’re all perfect.”

He went on to rail against top-ranking Democratic officials who have led the push for additional information on his dealings with Ukraine, 

He accused Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGiuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry Brindisi, Lamb recommended for Armed Services, Transportation Committees Overnight Health Care: Top health official defends contract payments to Trump allies | Vaping advocates confident Trump will turn from flavor ban | Sanders gets endorsement from nurses union MORE (D-Calif.) of caving to the “radical left,” and suggested House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGiuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry Jim Jordan: Latest allegation of ignoring sexual misconduct is 'ridiculous' Democrats face make-or-break moment on impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse to vote on bill to ensure citizenship for children of overseas service members As impeachment goes public, forget 'conventional wisdom' What this 'impeachment' is really about — and it's not the Constitution MORE (D-N.Y.) were playing some kind of con.

“When you see little Adam Schiff go out and lie and lie and stand at the mic – smart guy, by the way... And then he goes into a room with Nadler and they must laugh their asses off,” Trump said. “They must laugh their asses off.”

Trump had in recent days acknowledged that he raised Biden and corruption on a call with Zelensky and admitted that he withheld aid to Ukraine just days before the call. But he insisted there was nothing improper about his behavior, and that the call transcript would prove it.

Instead, the document provided Democrats with additional fuel for their impeachment inquiry as lawmakers seized on Trump pushing a foreign leader to look into one of his most formidable domestic political rivals.

Trump was asked about the document at multiple meetings with world leaders on Wednesday, including one closely watched sit-down with Zelensky where the Ukrainian president said he did not feel pressure from Trump on the call.