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Analysis: Trump again suggests his office has unlimited powers

John T. Bennett, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Friday insisted it "doesn't matter" if he asks foreign leaders to target his domestic political foes, again describing the powers of his office as unlimited.

On yet another remarkable Friday that capped yet another remarkable week in his roller-coaster-like term, the president once again opted against distancing himself from allegations that would have amounted to a major scandal for anyone who held the unofficial title of "leader of the free world."

But now, with a lifelong focus of tabloid gossip pages as president, it was just another Friday at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The White House grounds have been decked out for days, with the president hosting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for meetings, a midday joint press conference and an evening state dinner in the Rose Garden. But, yet again, scandal hung over the pomp and circumstance at the executive mansion

The president spent the morning on the defensive, firing off a tweet trying to discredit an intelligence community whistleblower's complaint that Trump made an alarming and inappropriate "promise" to a foreign leader that multiple news outlets reported is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian.

When pressed by reporters during a wild Oval Office question-and-answer session -- this one spanning over half an hour -- the former reality television host had an opportunity to distance himself from his latest scandal. He merely could have said he was reviewing the matter and would have more to say later. But that's just not The Donald's brash style.

 

Instead, Trump all but acknowledged reports that he suggested Zelensky's government investigate a company linked to one of 2020 Democratic presidential primary front-runner Joe Biden's sons. Trump and personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani have accused Biden, while he was still vice president, of bribing Zelensky's predecessor to drop a probe of that very company.

Some congressional Democrats and Trump's critics accused him of holding up a U.S. military aid package meant to help Ukraine ward off additional Russian military aggression unless Zelensky agreed.

Trump did not deny making the alleged remark during a July 25 telephone conservation with the Ukrainian leader. As he uttered his nondenial, he again showed his expansive -- perhaps limitless -- view of the legal authorities he acquired when he took the oath of office in January 2017.

"It doesn't matter what I discussed," Trump told reporters Friday.

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