Trump dismisses efforts by Democrats to impeach him as ‘hoax’ and ‘joke’

Ukraine controversy ratchets up after White House releases details of phone call

The US House of Representatives will launch a formal impeachment inquiry into US president Donald Trump over reports he sought foreign help from Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden. Video: Reuters

 

US president Donald Trump dismissed efforts by Democrats to impeach him as a “hoax” and a “joke” on Wednesday, a day after House speaker Nancy Pelosi opened an official impeachment inquiry against the president.

Speaking at a press conference in New York at the close of his three-day visit to the United Nations, Mr Trump demanded transparency from Democrats, accusing Democratic politicians of “threatening” the Ukrainian president.

He also claimed that “millions and millions of dollars” were taken out of Ukraine while Joe Biden was vice-president.

Mr Trump’s comments came hours after the White House released a memorandum on a disputed phone call between Mr Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a bid to quell the deepening constitutional crisis that has prompted Democrats to open the impeachment inquiry.

The document – which is not a verbatim transcript of the call – confirms that Mr Trump requested Mr Zelenskiy to investigate his political rival Mr Biden and his son, offering to enlist attorney general William Barr and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to help him.

Read the White House memo here

Former US vice president Joe Biden speaking at a press conference in Wilmington on September 24th. Photograph: Mark Makela/The New York Times
Former US vice president Joe Biden speaking at a press conference in Wilmington on September 24th. Photograph: Mark Makela/The New York Times

‘Nobody pushed me’

“I would like you to do us a favour,” Mr Trump says at one point according to the notes. “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great,” he said.

He also said that Biden “went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution”, a reference to the decision by the Obama administration to lobby for the removal of the Ukrainian prosecutor.

Mr Zelenskiy told the US president on the call that one of assistants had already spoken to Mr Giuliani. “We are hoping very much that Mr Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine,” he said.

Sitting alongside Mr Trump on Wednesday at a pre-scheduled bilateral meeting in New York, Mr Zelenskiy denied that he had been pressured by Mr Trump to open the investigation.

“I think you read everything,” he said to reporters, referring to the published memo. “I think you read [the] text. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be involved to democratic, open elections, elections of USA . . . Nobody pushed me.”

Mr Trump on Wednesday said the released memorandum showed that the conversation was a “nothing call”.

Specifically, Mr Trump and his allies have argued that the call showed that he offered no “quid pro quo” to the Ukrainian leader.

Concerns have been raised by Democrats that Mr Trump withheld up to $400 million in military aid to the country in exchange for Ukraine looking into the Biden corruption claims.

“There has been no President in the history of our Country who has been treated so badly as I have. The Democrats are frozen with hatred and fear. They get nothing done. This should never be allowed to happen to another President. Witch Hunt!” Mr Trump tweeted from New York.