- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 22, 2019

President Trump said Sunday his July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “absolutely perfect,” pushing back at reports he used it to withhold military aid in exchange for dirt on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who he labeled “dishonest.”

At the same time, he appeared to confirm reports he spoke about Mr. Biden during a July 25 call that is at the heart of a new controversy enveloping the White House.

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine and Ukraine has got a lot of problems,” Mr. Trump told White House reporters as he left for a rally in Texas.

“The new president is saying that he’s going to be able to rid the country of corruption, and I said that would be a great thing, we had a great conversation,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump reportedly urged Mr. Zelensky “about eight times” to cooperate with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani on investigating Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, over an alleged nexus between his business work and the vice president’s push to oust a Ukrainian prosecutor in 2016, Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Mr. Trump brushed off the reports, saying he would have “no problem” with Mr. Giuliani testifying to Congress about his recent meetings with Ukrainians.

“Rudy is a very straight shooter and Rudy wants to see the same thing as a lot of other people with respect to Ukraine,” Mr. Trump said.

A whistleblower filed a formal complaint about Mr. Trump’s call on July 25, sparking a firestorm in Washington as the White House opposes efforts to turn over the complaint and transcripts to Congress.

The inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community who received the complaint deemed it a credible and urgent matter, yet the acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire won’t turn over the complaint to lawmakers.

Democrats say if Mr. Trump used the presidency to press a foreign nation to dig up dirt on his opponent, it will have serious ramifications that may include impeachment. They say if Mr. Trump didn’t do anything wrong, he should be eager to prove it by turning over details.

They are especially concerned that Mr. Trump held up $250 million in military aid to Ukraine as way to entice investigations into Mr. Biden. The aid was eventually released on Sept. 12.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was in conversations about Ukrainian aid and no one tied it to the Bidens.

“I don’t have any reason to believe the president pressured [a foreign leader],” Mr. Mnuchin told CNN’s State of the Union, later adding: “There’s lots of people who listened to this call.”

He said the president shouldn’t be forced to turn over details of the call, saying the White House has a right to confidentiality when it conducts foreign relations.

Mr. Trump said the pressure should be on the former vice president to explain himself, pointing to Mr. Biden’s claim he never spoke about business with his son.

“This is a very dishonest thing that Joe Biden did, and then he said he never spoke to his son. Does anybody believe that one?” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump is scheduled to meet with Mr. Zelensky next week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The president said he does not intend to meet with Iranian leaders in New York, however, amid simmering tensions in the Middle East.

“Nothing is ever off the table but I have no intention of meeting with Iran,” Mr. Trump said Sunday.

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