Dem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens

Dem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens
© Aaron Schwartz
 
Murphy, in a letter to the leaders of the House impeachment inquiry, said he raised Giuliani, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE's personal lawyer, in a meeting with the Ukraine leader in September and explained that he had heard reports that "Zelensky was being asked to become an actor in U.S. domestic politics."
 
"President Zelensky said he understood, and represented to us that he had no desire to interfere in a U.S. election. I interpreted Zelensky's answer to my question as a concession of the premise of my question—that he was receiving improper overtures from Giuliani to interfere in the 2020 election," Murphy added in the letter.

Murphy added that Zelensky "did not contradict the facts I laid out in my question, and instead simply relayed his desire to say clear of becoming enmeshed in American politics. To me, this was confirmation that Zelensky was indeed feeling the pressure I described."
 
Murphy's letter comes a day after Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties Both sides have reason to want speedy Trump impeachment trial Senators sound alarm on dangers of ransomware attacks after briefing MORE (R-Wis.), who Murphy went on the trip to Ukraine with, sent his own letter in response to a request for information from Republicans on the committees involved in the House inquiry. 
 
Johnson argued in his letter that "at no time during this meeting—or any other meeting on this trip—was there any mention by Zelensky or any Ukrainian that they were feeling pressure to do anything in return for the military aid."
 
But Murphy, in his seven-page letter, said he learned in May that Giuliani was "running a shadow foreign policy operation in Ukraine," including trying to get the Ukraine government to probe former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter Biden. 
 
"My concern was raised even higher when I began to hear from people who had spoken to Zelensky that he was very confused by Giuliani's requests, and worried about the possible consequences of rebuffing Trump's demands," Murphy added. 
 
In addition to bringing up Giuliani with Zelensky, Murphy says he also brought up Trump's personal lawyer with Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine and a witness in the impeachment inquiry. 
 
Taylor, according to Murphy, called Giuliani's efforts "a problem" and said that Zelensky's team was confused about whose directive they should be following—Giuliani's or the State Department's. 
 
"At dinner, I raised with Taylor the news reports of Giuliani's shadow foreign policy operation in Ukraine, and I asked him the impact it was having on U.S.-Ukraine policy and his work at the embassy. 'It's a problem,' he told me," Murphy wrote. 
 
Murphy, describing his interactions with Taylor in his letter, characterized the Trump official as "clearly dismayed by Giulaini's efforts and gave the impression that he had little input into this back channel of communications to Zelensky."
 
"The next day, I pulled Taylor aside to tell him that I planned to raise the Giuliani issue with Zelensky, and advise the new president to stay clear of internal U.S. politics. Taylor's response was to encourage me to raise this issue with Zelensky," Murphy added. 
 
The House is currently investigating whether or not Trump tied Ukraine aid to the country opening an investigation into the Bidens. 
 
Murphy noted in his letter that he was not trying to contradict Johnson but provide "additional information and important context." 
 
He, however, did specifically take issue of Johnson's criticism of Lt. Col. Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanDirector of National Intelligence Maguire should stand for the whistleblower Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings Former GOP senator to Republicans: Trump subjected Ukraine leader to a 'shakedown' MORE, who the president has lashed out at as a "Never Trumper." 
 
Johnson, in his letter, said Vindman may be among a class of government bureaucrats who aim to push back on Trump’s policies “by leaking to the press and participating in the ongoing effort to sabotage his policies and, if possible, remove him from office.”
 
Murphy said the accusations against Vindman marked the "most disturbing element" of the GOP senator's letter. 

"The most disturbing element of senator Johnson's letter was his assertion that certain administration staffers, most notably Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, may be actively working to 'sabotage' the president's foreign agenda,  despite having no actual evidence of such sabotage," Murphy wrote.