President Donald Trump on Monday denied putting any pressure 'whatsoever' on the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden or Hunter Biden by linking millions in U.S. aid to the country to an investigation he has admitted calling for.
'I put no pressure on them, whatsoever,' Trump told reporters during a bilateral meeting with the president of Poland at the UN.
Then, he allowed: '[I] could have. I think it would probably possible have been okay if I did, but I didn't put any pressure on them whatsoever,' he continued.
'You know why? Because they want to do the right thing and they don't know corruption and they probably know that Joe Biden and his son is corrupt. They probably know that. Joe Biden and his son are corrupt,' Trump continued.
Trump's clear denial of the linkage between the funds and the ask, which Democrats have already said could constitute a quid-pro-quo if it happened, came just hours after he said it was valid to link financial assistance to efforts to combat 'corruption.'
'If you don't talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?' Trump said Monday.
President Donald Trump tore into former Vice President Joe Biden at the United Nations on Monday as he began days of meetings there
And he appeared to walk back a statement where he said he might release a transcript that would vindicate him.
'I don't think it's a great precedent to be releasing calls with foreign countries, heads of to foreign countries. I don't think it's a great precedent, so I didn't say that I was going to release it all,' he said, when asked about putting out the information.
On Sunday on a trip to Houston, Trump while defending his conduct had raised the possibility of releasing a transcript.
'We’ll make a determination about how to release it, releasing it, saying what we said,' he said then.
'I put no pressure on them, whatsoever,' Trump said of his July 25 call with the president of Ukraine. '[I] could have. I think it would probably possible have been okay if I did, but I didn't put any pressure on them whatsoever.'
Trump made the comments while fuming about what he considers unfair media treatment.
'If a Republican ever did what Joe Biden did, if a Republican ever said what Joe Biden said, they’d be getting the electric chair right now,' the president vented.
'Look at the double standards. You people ought to be ashamed of yourself.
'You got a lot of crooked journalists here. Crooked as hell,' he fumed.
His line about the death penalty came on a day GOP presidential candidate William Weld said: ‘Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a U.S. election. That’s not just undermining democratic institutions. That is treason. It’s treason pure and simple, and the penalty for treason under the U.S. code is death. That’s the only penalty.’
Earlier Monday, Trump tore into Democratic rival Joe Biden as well as the former vice president' son, saying what both did in Ukraine was a 'disgrace' – as leading Democrats in Congress weigh a renewed impeachment conduct following revelations about the president's own conduct.
Trump defended his own conversation with Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, while fielding questions from reporters at the UN Monday morning.
'We had a perfect phone call with the president of Ukraine. Everybody knows it's just a Democrat witch hunt,' Trump said, reviving his terminology for the Russia probe.
'Here we go again. They failed with Russia, they failed with recession. They failed with everything. And now they're bringing this up,' Trump said.
'The one who's got the problem is Biden. If you look at what Biden did, Biden did what they would like to have me do except the one problem, I didn't do it. What Biden did is a disgrace. What his son did is a disgrace,' Trump said.
'The son took money from Ukraine, the son took money from China, a lot of money from China. China would love to see, they would take a think of nothing they'd rather see than Biden get in because they will take this great deal that we're about to make, and they would really have themselves a deal. Let me just tell you, what Biden did was wrong,' he added.
The president's attack is in keeping with his strategy since the emergence of a whistleblower's claims, reportedly about his own dealings with Ukraine. The president has thrown up a series of accusations at Biden and his surviving son, Hunter, who joined the board of a Ukrainian energy company in 2014, while his father was serving as vice president. Hunter Biden also had dealings in China.
Democrats are demanding Trump's Director of National Intelligence release information about the whistleblower's claims, as generally required by whistleblower statutes.
U.S. President Donald Trump attends the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Administration 'will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness' if it 'persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President'
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even hinted at Donald Trump's impeachment in a Sunday statement where she said there was a 'whole new stage of investigation' if the president blocks the whistleblower report from reaching Congress.
She wrote that the Administration 'will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness' if it 'persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President'.
She added the move would 'take us into a whole new stage of investigation'.
Trump, in his morning comments spoke about the need to control corruption in Ukraine. He is to meet President Zelensky at the UN. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported Trump told Zelensky in a July 25 call eight times that he should investigate Hunter Biden.
Also in July, the White House decided to hold up $250 million in security aid to Ukraine. Democrats have warned of a possible quid-pro-quo, though there are no indications Trump mentioned the security assistance in the July 25 phone call.
'We want honesty. And I think with the new president, you're going to see much more honesty in the Ukraine. And that's what we're looking for. We're supporting a country, we want to make sure that country is honest, it's very important to talk about corruption,' Trump said.
Trump also appeared to confirm that it was appropriate to link U.S. security aid to Ukraine with its anti 'corruption' work.
'If you don't talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?' he said. 'One of the reasons the new president got elected as he was going to stop corruption. So it's very important that on occasion, you speak to somebody about corruption, very important,' he said.