President Donald Trump reportedly pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at least eight times to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son in a phone call central to a mysterious whistleblower complaint.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump urged Zelensky in the July 25 call to work with his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on an investigation of Hunter Biden, who once served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company that was under scrutiny from a Ukrainian prosecutor.
“He told him that he should work with [Giuliani] on Biden, and that people in Washington wanted to know,” a source familiar with Trump’s call to Zelensky told The Journal.
The source said that Trump did not dangle military or intelligence assistance to Ukraine during the call. Democrats have speculated that Trump proposed a quid pro quo to Zelensky in exchange for collecting dirt on the Bidens.
As vice president, Joe Biden pressured Ukraine’s president at the time, Petro Poroshenko, to fire the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in order to secure a $1 billion loan guarantee from the U.S.
Giuliani has asserted that Biden pressured Poroshenko in order to protect his son from Shokin’s investigation. Biden bragged in January 2018 about masterminding Shokin’s ouster, but there is no direct evidence that it had to do with the investigation into Burisma Holdings, the company where Hunter Biden was a director.
On Aug. 12, an intelligence official who reportedly worked at the White House filed a complaint with the Intelligence Community Inspector General regarding the phone call.
Details about the whistleblower complaint have slowly leaked out into public view as House Democrats have called for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to provide the document to Congress. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the complaint centered on Ukraine and Trump’s conversation with Zelensky.
Trump deflected questions from reporters earlier Friday when asked if he and Zelensky discussed Biden.
“It doesn’t matter what I discussed,” Trump said, adding that he has not had improper conversations with any world leaders.
Trump then urged reporters to “look into” Biden’s statements last year bragging about forcing Poroshenko to fire Shokin, the Ukrainian prosecutor.
“Somebody ought to look into Joe Biden’s statement because it was disgraceful where he talked about billions of dollars that he’s not given to a certain country unless a certain prosecutor is taken off the case,” Trump told reporters when asked if he has talked to Zelensky about Biden.
Giuliani tweeted out video Thursday of Biden’s remarks about Poroshenko and Shokin.
Speaking at a Council on Foreign Relations event, Biden said that President Obama tasked him with visiting Ukraine to announce that the U.S. had provided a $1 billion loan guarantee to European nation. Biden said that he had also secured a commitment from Poroshenko that he would “take action” against Shokin, who had been accused of failing to fight corruption in Ukraine.
But Biden said that Poroshenko had failed to remove Shokin from office by the time he visited Ukraine, so he told the foreign leader: “Nah…we’re not going to give you the billion dollars.”
“They said, ‘You have no authority. You’re not the president,’” Biden recalled the Ukraine side saying.
“I said, ‘I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars.’ I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours.’ I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’”
“Well, son of a bitch. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time,” he added.
Shokin submitted his resignation on March 29, 2016.
Neither the White House nor the Biden campaign responded to requests for comment. Andrew Bakaj, the attorney for the whistleblower, declined comment.