- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday that President Trump didn’t pressure him during an infamous phone call, emboldening Mr. Trump to scold the media and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi while demanding credit for wins on the global stage.

“We had, I think, [a] good phone call. It was normal. We spoke about many things,” Mr. Zelensky said in a highly anticipated sit-down with Mr. Trump at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. “Nobody pushed me.”

In a flash, the comedic actor turned president undercut Democrats’ claims that Mr. Trump turned the screws on the novice leader by demanding dirt on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.

“In other words, no pressure,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump’s critics said there was plenty of damning material in a newly released transcript of the July 25 call, as the House pursues impeachment, and that Mr. Zelensky was placed in an awful position by the leader of the world’s most powerful nation.

Yet the president felt vindicated. He labeled the media “corrupt” and accused Mrs. Pelosi of abandoning progress on trade and other initiatives to cater to her left flank.

“As far as I’m concerned, unfortunately, she’s no longer the speaker of the House,” he said in front of Mr. Zelensky and the television cameras.

Mr. Trump slammed his rivals several hours after the Justice Department released a declassified transcript of the Trump-Zelensky call that was consuming Washington. Democrats found Mr. Trump’s push to look into Mr. Biden appalling, but Republicans said Mrs. Pelosi jumped the gun in thinking the call amounted to impeachable behavior. He noted the lack of a “quid pro quo” involving aid money.

Mr. Trump played victim in chief from New York. He said Democrats were launching another “witch hunt” and that he wouldn’t get credit for getting Japan to buy $7 billion in U.S. farm products and lower its tariffs on American beef, pork, wheat, cheese, wine and other products.

“They won’t report it today. It gets lost with other fake news,” he told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after a signing ceremony. “But it’s still big.”

Mr. Trump used a press conference to rattle off a list of accomplishments from his three days in New York, including the signings of defense agreements with Poland and Singapore and promoting dialogue between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

“The Democrats did this hoax during the United Nations week. It was perfect because, this way, it takes away from the tremendous achievements we’re taking care of,” Mr. Trump said.

The president is sensitive to being undercut on the world stage. Earlier this year, he tweeted that congressional testimony from his former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, may have contributed to the failure of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi.

At the time, he called it a “new low in American politics and may have contributed to the ‘walk.’ Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!”

Last month, he scolded the press for highlighting divisions between his administration and world powers over climate change and whether to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin back into the Group of Seven leading industrial nations during the G-7 summit in France.

Mr. Trump grumbled and more than once shooed the press out the door Wednesday as he faced unrelenting questions about his call with Mr. Zelensky, during which he asked the Ukrainian to cooperate with his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr as they looked into Mr. Biden’s push to oust a former Ukrainian prosecutor.

Mr. Zelensky said he didn’t want to meddle in U.S. affairs at all.

“I don’t want to be involved [in] democratic, open elections of USA,” Mr. Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian said everyone had the chance to read the July transcript and that no one “pushed me.”

Mr. Trump then went on the offensive by taking swipes at Mrs. Pelosi and former President Barack Obama.

“If you remember, you lost Crimea during a different administration, not during the Trump administration,” said Mr. Trump, once again blaming Mr. Obama for Mr. Putin’s forceful annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.

Mr. Zelensky, in one of several lighthearted exchanges, said Mr. Obama “didn’t find time” to visit Ukraine.

It was one of several instances when Mr. Trump found refuge among world leaders in New York, more than 200 miles north of the buzzing capital.

Mr. Trump reconnected with Mr. Abe, a golfing buddy, and Latin American leaders thanked Mr. Trump for cracking down on Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro.

Julio Borges, president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, said Mr. Maduro is becoming weaker and that Mr. Trump is considered the most important leader in his country.

“Maybe I’ll move there,” Mr. Trump quipped.

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