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Sunday 17 November 2019

Trump insists impeachment inquiry hasn’t hurt him

The president told reporters that ‘nobody has any first-hand knowledge’.

Donald Trump (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Donald Trump (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

By Lisa Mascaro, Mark Clare Jalonick and Eric Tucker, Associated Press

Donald Trump has insisted he has not been damaged by impeachment evidence detailing efforts by him and his administration to pressure Ukraine to publicly investigate his political rivals.

Speaking to reporters as he left on a campaign trip to Atlanta, the president said he was “not concerned about anything” that has been disclosed so far.

“It seems that nobody has any first-hand knowledge,” he said, adding: “Every one of those people cancelled themselves out.”

His comments came a day after the release of an impeachment inquiry transcript in which career State Department official George Kent said Mr Trump wanted to hear just three words from the Ukraine president in their July phone call: Investigations, Biden, Clinton.

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George Kent (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Mr Kent told investigators that was his understanding of what Mr Trump wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to say to unlock US military aid, as relayed to the official by others, including those in direct contact with the president.

Numerous current and former Trump officials have testified that the president was conditioning US aid on Ukraine publicly investigating Democrats including his potential 2020 political foe Joe Biden and Mr Biden’s son.

Clinton, Mr Kent explained, was “shorthand” for the 2016 US presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton. It was a reference to Mr Trump’s view, pushed by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani but outside of mainstream US intelligence, that Ukraine played a role interfering in the election.

Mr Kent also raised concerns about Mr Giuliani’s “campaign of lies” against Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and the Trump administration’s firing of the veteran diplomat.

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House investigators are releasing key transcripts from days of closed-door interviews in the impeachment inquiry as they prepare for public sessions with witnesses next week. A whistleblower’s complaint about Mr Trump’s telephone call with Mr Zelenskiy was the spark that ignited the probe.

Mr Trump on Friday objected to the public sessions, even though he, the White House and Republican allies, had objected to interviews taking place behind closed doors. And he claimed that Democrats were only interested in speaking with people who dislike him, even as the White House has blocked potentially more supportive witnesses, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, from appearing.

“This is just a continuation of the hoax. It’s a disgraceful thing,” said Mr Trump, insisting — despite evidence to the contrary — that the inquiry is helping him politically.

He also tried to distance himself from his ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, telling reporters: “I hardly know the gentleman.” He has previously praised Mr Sondland.

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