Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday rejected claims that President Donald Trump has attempted to blackmail him in diplomatic relations this year.
Zelensky told reporters his now-controversial July 25 phone call with Trump was not related to the U.S. having withheld foreign aid from Ukraine.
In fact, the Ukrainian president said he was not aware of Trump’s decision to withhold the nearly $400 million in aid at the time of their phone conversation.
And he believes the transcript of the phone call reflects that.
“There was no blackmail,” Zelensky said during a day of televised news briefings in Kiev, according to Reuters.
“This was not the subject of our conversation,” he added.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says that U.S. President Donald Trump did not seek to blackmail him during a phone call in July or a meeting in September. More here: https://t.co/DcwbPXCGMB pic.twitter.com/U1grNXtDOu
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) October 10, 2019
The July phone call has come under immense scrutiny in recent weeks after an intelligence community whistleblower came forward with allegations that Trump leveraged U.S. foreign aid to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Biden’s son, Hunter, used to sit on the board of the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma Holdings, which was at one time investigated by a prosecutor who Biden — the Obama administration’s point man for Ukrainian foreign policy — pressured the country to fire.
Earlier this year, a Ukrainian anti-corruption government agency requested that the investigation into Burisma be reopened — in part due to”unusual transactions” worth millions of dollars, according to investigative reporter and Fox News contributor John Solomon.
Alleging that Trump tried to improperly leverage U.S. aid for the purpose of forcing Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, House Democrats announced a formal impeachment inquiry against the president late last month.
Earlier this week, though, Solomon revealed Ukraine had reopened its Burisma investigation long before Trump’s July phone call with Zelensky.
Zelensky further undermined the case against Trump on Thursday, telling reporters his defense minister did not inform him of the issue with the U.S. aid until after the call.
Instead, he said purpose of the call was to schedule a formal meeting with Trump to ask that the U.S. walk back its anti-Ukraine rhetoric.
Zelensky also said he sees no reason not to believe the Ukrainian and White House transcripts of the call do not “completely” match.
“I didn’t even check [the Ukrainian version], but I think that it matches completely,” he said.
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