Ukraine’s President Says ‘No Blackmail’ Happened in Phone Call With Trump
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that “no blackmail” took place during the July phone call he had with President Donald Trump.
The call has been cited as the reason Democrats started an impeachment inquiry. Trump’s White House released a transcript of the call in September.
Zelensky has repeatedly emphasized that he felt no pressure during the call but in new remarks seemed to go further, specifically saying on Oct. 10, “There was no blackmail.”
He said that the military aid that the Trump administration froze as it reviewed the funds over concerns of corruption in Ukraine was never linked to Trump’s requests to probe Crowdstrike, a firm that investigated a breach into the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
The elder Biden pressured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in 2016 to oust a top prosecutor who was probing Burisma, an energy company that paid Hunter Biden as a board member from 2014 to 2019. Poroshenko ousted the prosecutor based on the threat that aid would be withheld if he didn’t, Joe Biden bragged last year.
“They blocked this money and nobody asked us [for] anything,” Zelensky said on Wednesday, referring to the aid, which was eventually delivered. “We are not servants. We are an independent country.” He was speaking at an event in Kiev.
He also said he thinks the transcript released by the Trump administration is accurate but admitted he didn’t check whether the Ukrainian transcript of the July call is the same as that of the White House.
Trump highlighted Zelensky’s remarks on Twitter, saying: “This should immediately end the talk of impeachment!”
Trump’s second son, Eric Trump, wrote that Hunter Biden, “with no industry knowledge or duties, was being paid $600,000 annually. All of this while the average annual salary in Ukraine is $1700 per year.”
“Where is Hunter Biden? He has disappeared while the Fake News protects his Crooked daddy!” President Trump said, sharing his son’s post.
Where is Hunter Biden? He has disappeared while the Fake News protects his Crooked daddy! https://t.co/Gtwn0nxOTt
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2019
Zelensky told reporters at the United Nations in September that the only person that can pressure him is his son. He and Trump later spoke to the press before a meeting and Zelensky said that the call “was normal” and that “nobody pushed me.”
Zelensky on Thursday invited U.S. and Ukrainian prosecutors to cooperate on an eventual investigation into the Bidens, but insisted he would not interfere.
“I don’t want to be pulled into this because I understand that my words could impact the elections of the American people,” he said.
Trump has called on both China and Ukraine to probe the Bidens, a request China rejected this week.
Ukraine’s top prosecutor, meanwhile, said on Oct. 4 that his office is reviewing cases that were closed in the past, including cases against Burisma.
“We are now looking again at all cases that were closed or broken up or were investigated earlier to make a decision to reconsider those instances where illegal procedural decisions were made,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.