In a recent interview with Hromadske, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko denied that President Trump attempted to pressure the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, into investigating former Vice President and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden (emphasis added):
I want to say that we are an independent country. We have our own secrets. Our president has the right to speak to another president so that that conversation remains confidential. This is the one precondition that leaders [set] each other so that they can exchange sensitive information. American investigators have the full right to turn to the U.S. and to get this information if they think that our president has been pressured. They can clear this up. I know what they spoke about, and I don’t think there was any coercion. There was a talk – talks can be on different topics; leaders have the right to talk about any problems they wish. This conversation was long, it was friendly, and it touched on a lot of questions, some of which had rather serious implications.
I think the situation that’s taking place with the Americans between Ukraine and the U.S., this confrontation between Republicans and Democrats, all these speculations that Ukraine helped the Democrats, that we wanted a President Clinton instead of President Trump – this is a result of misinformation and evil intentions of certain people.
We lost a lot of momentum of progress. Those who work in relations between Ukraine and the USA understood that we worked with both parties. We always value the help from both sides, and our priorities won’t change with relation to the U.S. regardless of who’s in the administration. Different American presidents have supported us and we value the support of Congress, but that doesn’t mean we could, or have the capability, even in theory, of helping one or the other party.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post published a story about an alleged whistleblower from within a United States intel agency who filed a complaint with the “inspector general for the intelligence community” pertaining to a “phone call” between President Trump and another foreign leader, according to “two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter” who remained anonymous. This phone call allegedly involved a “promise.”
On Friday, The Wall Street Journal expanded on the story. According to “people familiar with the matter,” in July, President Trump reportedly pressured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky “about eight times” over the phone to initiate an investigation into an incident connected to Joe Biden and his son.
The timing of the conversation has been labeled suspect because at the time of the phone call, the United States had yet to release hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine. Some have claimed that President Trump’s alleged pressuring of Zelensky to look into Biden was a sort of quid pro quo.
Trump told reporters on Sunday, however, that there was “no quid pro quo, there was nothing.”
The funding was eventually released earlier this month. Defense News reports that “the White House Office of Management and Budget … lifted the hold, which applied to both the $250 million in the Pentagon’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and $141.5 million in foreign military financing being prepared separately by the State Department, according to congressional sources.”
Also on Sunday, the president said that while he did speak with Zelensky about Biden, part of the conversation had to do with “all of the corruption taking place … largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son (adding to the corruption),” reports CNN.
After a reporter asked Trump on Friday if he wanted to “address this whistleblower story,” Trump responded: “It’s a partisan whistleblower, shouldn’t event have information. I’ve had conversations with many leaders. They’re always appropriate … at the highest level, always appropriate.”
The president then urged someone to look into Joe Biden’s actions in Ukraine.
As The Daily Wire previously reported:
The Biden matter … involves the then-vice president pressuring Ukraine to oust a prosecutor general who investigated a gas company, Burisma Group, for whom his son, Hunter Biden, served as a board member. Biden says he pressed for the ouster of the prosecutor not to protect his son, but because he failed to adequately address the country’s corruption problems.
Trump has also defended himself against the allegations of impropriety on Twitter, writing:
Some Republican leaders have urged caution.
During a Friday interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said: “We need to know more facts. This is just being written in The Wall Street Journal. What did we see last week with The New York Times writing something before they had all the facts? The Director of National Intelligence … is going to be before the Intel Committee next Thursday in a public hearing, and I think that will be the appropriate time to find the information out.”
According to Reuters, and as partially noted by McCarthy, although acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire overruled a determination from “an intelligence community watchdog” that the issuance from the whistleblower was fit to be examined by lawmakers in Congress, Maguire will testify before the House Intelligence Committee next week.
TIME reports that the testimony is scheduled for Thursday.