Trump vows to release another transcript of call with Ukrainian president as pressure to impeach him mounts
Two days ago, US President Donald Trump said while facing the Democrats’ call for his impeachment that he decided to release the declassified transcript of his phone call with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky. The president was accused of putting pressure on a foreign government to investigate his domestic political rival Joe Biden in order to make gains in the 2020 elections. Trump called the impeachment inquiry “witch hunt” several times and said his call with Zelensky was “appropriate”.
On Wednesday, September 25, the transcript of Trump’s call during which he repeatedly encouraged Zelensky to probe Biden’s role in removing Ukraine’s prosecutor-general Viktor Shokin in 2016 was released. Shokin was then probing energy company Burisma Holdings that included Joe’s son Hunter on its board. As the opponents felt vindicated over his mentioning Biden in the call, Trump was at his furious best on September 25, defending his “very nice call” at a news conference and lashed out at the Democrats and the “dishonest” media saying they were obsessed with the “witch hunt”.
The Republican leader said in a series of tweets that while he supported transparency on the “so-called whistleblower information”, he also insisted on transparency from the Bidens on what he claimed was moving out millions of dollars quickly and easily from Ukraine and China. He also demanded transparency from the Democrats “that went to Ukraine and attempted to force the new President to do things that they wanted under the form of political threat”.
Another transcript on the way?
Expressing disbelief that he could be impeached for his call with Zelensky, Trump said he will likely release the transcript of his additional call with the Ukrainian president who took office a few months ago. The president was speaking about an earlier congratulatory call with Zelensky as well as the interactions that his deputy Mike Pence had with Kiev. “That was the second conversation. I think you should ask for the first conversation also. I can't believe they haven’t,” Trump said. “You can have it any time you need it.”
Pence, however, traveled to Poland where he had interactions with the Ukrainians in August while Trump’s call with Zelensky took place on July 25.
Meanwhile, things didn’t look too favorable for Trump from the Ukrainian side although Zelensky said in New York on Wednesday that his call with Trump was “normal” and that “nobody pushed” him.
Serhiy Leshchenko, an anti-corruption advocate and former member of the Ukrainian parliament who now advises Zelensky told ABC News that while the new Zelensky administration was trying to engage with the American officials to ensure the security since Washington is Kiev's main benefactor, it became subsequently clear that the Trump administration was only open to communicate if the probe into Biden was discussed. Trump, in fact, sought an inquiry into the firm tied to Hunter during the call with Zelensky and predicted that Ukraine’s economy will do “better and better”. Trump though did not explicitly link Washington’s aid to Kiev to the probe he sought.
“There is a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” Trump said, as per the transcript.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on September 24, launched an official impeachment inquiry into Trump after the Democrats accused him of “staggering abuse of power”. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton also joined the chorus seeking Trump’s impeachment saying the president of the US betrayed his country.
The Trump-Ukraine episode will witness another key moment on Thursday, September 26, when acting director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire will testify before the Congress over the whistleblower's complaint.