Tuesday 15 October 2019

Trump prodded Ukraine to probe Joe Biden's son

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Photo: REUTERS/Scott Morgan
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Photo: REUTERS/Scott Morgan

Lisa Mascaro

President Donald Trump this summer urged the new leader of Ukraine to investigate the son of former US vice president Joe Biden, a person familiar with the matter said. Democrats condemned what they saw as a clear effort to damage a political rival, now at the centre of an explosive whistleblower complaint against Trump.

It was the latest revelation in an escalating controversy that has created a showdown between Democrats and the Trump administration, which has refused to turn over the formal complaint by a national security official or even describe its contents.

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Trump is defending himself against the intelligence official's complaint, asserting that it comes from a "partisan whistleblower", though the president also says he doesn't know who had made it. The complaint was based on a series of events, one of which was a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to two people familiar with the matter.

In a tweet yesterday, Trump referred to "a perfectly fine and routine conversation I had" with Ukraine's leader. "Nothing was said that was in any way wrong."

Trump, in that call, urged Zelenskiy to probe the activities of potential Democratic rival Biden's son Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company. Trump did not raise the issue of US aid to Ukraine, indicating there was not an explicit quid pro quo, according to the person.

In an interview with Ukrainian outlet Hromadske, Ukrainian foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko said his country was not interested in taking sides in US politics, but that Zelenskiy had the right to keep the contents of his talk with Trump secret.

Biden said if the reports are true, "then there is truly no bottom to President Trump's willingness to abuse his power and abase our country". He said Trump should release the transcript of his conversation with Zelenskiy "so that the American people can judge for themselves".

The US intelligence inspector general described the whistleblower's complaint as "serious" and "urgent." Trump dismissed it all last Friday, insisting "it's nothing". He scolded reporters and said it was "just another political hack job". There has yet to be any evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or his son regarding Ukraine.

©Associated Press

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