Ukraine's president says 'no blackmail' in call with Trump

Ukraine's president says 'no blackmail' in call with Trump
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday there was “no blackmail” during a phone call with President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE that is at the heart of the House’s impeachment investigation.

Zelensky told The Associated Press during an all-day media event intended to distance himself from the unfolding drama in Washington that he learned after the July 25 call that Trump had ordered the U.S. government to block millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine and that no mention of the money came up during their conversation. 

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“We didn’t speak about this” during the July call, Zelensky said. “There was no blackmail.”

President Trump highlighted Zelensky's comments in a tweet later Thursday, saying, "This should immediately end the talk of impeachment"

A reconstructed transcript of the call released by the White House showed that Trump asked Zelensky to “look into” former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Trump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles MORE and his son over unfounded corruption allegations. Democrats pointed to a decision days earlier to block the aid as evidence that Trump may have abused his power to leverage it in an attempt to pressure Zelensky to comply with his request.

Trump has defended his request and the decision to block the aid, saying both were made to tackle corruption in Ukraine.

Zelensky said on Thursday that he “didn’t even check” if the Ukrainian transcript of the July call corresponds with that of the White House, according to the AP. “I think they match.”

“We have many diplomatic contacts. And in case we need to find a solution to questions of this level, questions about our country’s security, we use all our powerful possibilities,” he added when asked how Ukraine convinced Washington to release the aid. 

The scandal over Trump’s request for Kiev to investigate the Bidens served as the impetus for an official impeachment inquiry into Trump and whether he abused his power. 

A declassified copy of a whistleblower complaint regarding the call said that a future phone call or meeting between the two presidents “would depend on whether Zelensky showed willingness to ‘play ball,’” and that “multiple White House officials with direct knowledge” of the call were alarmed that Trump appeared to be using his office for his personal political gain and sought to bury the transcript of the conversation.

Democratic committee leaders have issued a slate of subpoenas demanding records and testimony from the White House, Vice President Pence, the Office of Management and Budget, the Pentagon, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiHillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings Giuliani: Trump asked me to brief Justice Department, GOP lawmakers on Ukraine trip The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - Democrats to release articles of impeachment today MORE and others as part of the investigation. 

The White House has thus far blocked several officials from complying with the House’s demands, an effort Democrats say could lead to an article of impeachment regarding obstruction of justice.

--Updated at 9:08 a.m.