Ukraine’s foreign minister has dismissed media accounts that President Donald Trump wrongly pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a July phone call.
Media accounts have claimed that during the call, Trump urged Zelenskiy to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. Reports also allege the call is part of a whistleblower complaint against the president made through the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said Saturday that nothing untoward happened during the call.
“I know what the conversation was about and I think there was no pressure,” he said in remarks to a Ukrainian news outlet.
“There was talk, conversations are different, leaders have the right to discuss any problems that exist. This conversation was long, friendly, and it touched on many questions, sometimes requiring serious answers,” he said, according to Fox News.
Prystaiko indicated that Ukraine does not want to get in the middle of an American political squabble.
“President Trump is interested, his advisor, [Rudy] Giuliani, newspapers, Democrats, Republicans are interested in whether pressure had been put on Ukraine,” Prystaiko said. “I want to say that we are an independent state, we have our own secrets.”
The foreign minister also rejected as “misinformation” claims that Ukraine was hoping former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would defeat Trump in the 2016 presidential election, according to The Hill.
Trump on Sunday responded to allegations that the call was improper.
“Well, this whistleblower — or whoever it was — because it sounds like it’s not a whistleblower,” he said, according to a White House media pool report. “You can’t have that happen to a president of the United States.
“And you can’t have people doing false alarms like this. And, you know, when the president speaks to the head of another country, he has to be able to speak to those people. And those people don’t want to know that that they’re being recorded or that you have a stenographer working. You don’t want to have to hear that. You can’t do that to a president and you can’t do that to other countries.”
The president indicated nothing was said that was improper.
“The conversation, by the way, was absolutely perfect. It was a beautiful, warm, nice conversation,” he said.
Trump said he has no expectation of privacy when talking to foreign leaders.
“Well, I don’t say anything, but whenever I speak to a foreign leader, I assume there are many people on the line,” he said. “I don’t assume I’m talking to the leader. Any time I’m on the phone with a foreign leader, many, many people are on the line. Sometimes they’re taping calls. Sometimes they’re doing a stenographer. But I also assume many people are on the line from the other side. So if I’m speaking to a country, they also have people on the line. So who would say a thing like what you’re saying?
“Now, I will say this: I said absolutely nothing wrong. It was perfect.”
Trump then turned the focus on Biden, who, according to a May report in The New York Times, pushed Ukraine in 2016 to oust a prosecutor who was closing in on an energy company called Burisma Holdings, for which Hunter Biden was a board member pulling down a salary of about $50,000 a month. The Times report said Biden demanded Ukraine dismiss the prosecutor or lose $1 billion in aid.
Biden has bragged about getting the Ukraine prosecutor fired, though he hasn’t said it was to protect his son.
“What wasn’t perfect is the horrible thing that Joe Biden said,” Trump said. “And now he made it a lie when he said he never spoke to his son. I mean, give me a break, he’s already said he spoke to his son. And now he said, yesterday, very firmly. Who wouldn’t speak to your son? Of course, you spoke to your son. So, he made the mistake of saying he never spoke to his son. He spoke to his son.
“But more importantly, what he said about the billions of dollars that he wouldn’t give them unless they fired the prosecutor. And then he bragged about how they fired the prosecutor and they got the money.”
CORRECTION, Sep. 23, 2019: An earlier version of this article stated Hunter Biden’s Burisma salary incorrectly. It was $50,000 a month.
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