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Trump appears to acknowledge Biden was topic in July phone call with Ukraine president

Laura King, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Trump appeared to acknowledge Sunday that he discussed political rival Joe Biden with the president of Ukraine during a July 25 phone call, at the same time renewing his attacks on a whistleblower from within the intelligence community who sounded the alarm about the conversation.

The complaint, according to multiple news reports, raises concerns that Trump abused his powers by pressuring the government of the former Soviet republic to investigate Hunter Biden -- the former vice president's son who did business there -- in order to harm the elder Biden's 2020 presidential prospects.

Senior Trump aides defended the administration's refusal to turn over the whistleblower complaint to Congress, as is generally required by statute if it is deemed urgent by the intelligence community's inspector general. That threshold was met.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) on Sunday reiterated a demand for the complaint to be turned over to the House Intelligence Committee in conjunction with scheduled testimony on Thursday by Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence.

"If the administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the president, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation," Pelosi wrote in an unusual letter to colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

Republicans have been largely silent as the whistleblower story has unfolded in recent days, but on Sunday, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah weighed in with an admonition that it was "critical for the facts to come out."

 

"If the president asked or pressured Ukraine's president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme," Romney, one of the few Senate Republicans to offer criticism of Trump, wrote on Twitter.

Trump has insisted he said nothing untoward in the call with the then newly elected President Volodymyr Zelensky. He repeated that contention Sunday to reporters outside the White House before departing for an event in Texas, calling his conversation with the Ukrainian leader "perfect."

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, interviewed on CNN's "State of the Union," said disclosing details of the whistleblower complaint would set a "terrible precedent." And in a separate interview, on NBC's "Meet the Press," the Treasury secretary said it would be "highly inappropriate to release a transcript of a call between two world leaders."

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, interviewed on "Fox News Sunday," took a similar stance, citing the necessity for "private conversations between world leaders."

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