- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2019

President Trump said Tuesday he temporarily withheld military aid from Ukraine because he wanted other countries to contribute their fair share, denying he used the money as leverage to pressure Ukraine’s leader to investigate the son of Democratic front-runner Joseph R. Biden.

“There was never any quid pro quo,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the United Nations. “I said ‘hold it up, let’s get other people to pay.’ I wanted to get other countries.”

The president said he pressed several advisers, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, for action last summer to get European allies to pay for Ukraine’s defense.

“Frankly, it affects them more,” the president said. “Why are they not paying? Why is the United States the only one paying for Ukraine? I made that loud and clear.”

A search of the White House website doesn’t reveal any summaries, or readouts, of phone calls made by Mr. Trump with foreign leaders last summer in which he urged them to pay more for Ukraine’s defense. The White House had no immediate comment.

Democrats, citing a whistleblower’s complaint against the president, are accusing him of delaying nearly $400 million in aid for Ukraine in an effort to force that country’s president to investigate Hunter Biden’s lucrative post with a Ukrainian gas company.

The president pointed out that the money, initially delayed in mid-July, was released to Ukraine on Sept. 11.

“As far as withholding funds, they were paid,” Mr. Trump said. “They were fully paid. I want other countries to put up money. People called me and said ‘let it go,’ and I let it go.”

The whistleblower’s complaint allegedly cites a phone conversation that Mr. Trump had with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in late July. The administration has resisted turning over the details of the complaint or a transcript of the phone call, but the president said Tuesday the White House will likely release a readout of the call — essentially a summary disclosing only what administration officials choose to release.

“When you see the readout of the call, which I assume you’ll see at some point, you’ll understand,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “That call was perfect. It couldn’t have been nicer. There was no pressure put on them whatsoever.”

The president said Tuesday that, similar to his complaints about NATO members not paying their fair share for the common defense of Europe, other European allies should be contributing more to protect Ukraine from Russian aggression.

“We paid the money,” Mr. Trump said. “But very importantly, Germany, France, other countries should put up money. And that’s been my complaint from the beginning.”

Responding to growing calls among congressional Democrats for his impeachment, Mr. Trump said their rationale is “nonsense.”

“It’s a witch hunt,” he said. “I’m leading in the polls, [Democrats] have no idea how they stop me. They only way they can try is through impeachment. This has never happened to a president before.”

He said Mr. Biden, while he was vice president in 2016, did pressure Ukrainian leaders to fire the prosecutor whose office had been investigating the gas company. Mr. Biden said he threatened to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees because the prosecutor wasn’t pursuing corruption.

“What Joe Biden did for his son — that’s something they should be looking at,” the president said.

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