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Trump seeks to shift questions from impeachment at UN

Trump seeks to shift questions from impeachment at UN
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President TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: 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.

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“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 PompeoMike PompeoWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? MORE and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says 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 BidenObama: Ensuring democracy 'continues to work effectively' keeps me 'up at night' New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine 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 GiulianiCourt sets Smartmatic dismissal date on Giuliani, Bartiromo, others Ukraine sanctions two businessmen tied to Giuliani Mo Brooks accuses Swalwell attorney who served papers on his wife of trespassing 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 PencePence heckled with calls of 'traitor' at conservative conference The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? 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 PelosiOvernight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post Trump against boycotting Beijing Olympics in 2022 House Democrats' campaign arm raises almost million in May MORE (D-Calif.) of caving to the “radical left,” and suggested House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffCyber concerns dominate Biden-Putin summit Senate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cybersecurity during summit with Putin MORE (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerSenate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas Black Democrats press leaders for reparations vote this month House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists 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.