Media should focus on Trump Ukraine call, not Hunter Biden
Aamer Madhani and John Fritze
Published 6:34 PM EDT Sep 23, 2019
Joe Biden’s campaign team on Monday accused President Trump and his allies of peddling “roundly debunked conspiracy theory” about the former vice president and his son’s dealings in the Ukraine.
The campaign also called on the media to focus on whether Trump abused his authority by allegedly pressuring a foreign leader to dig up dirt on the former vice president and his son.
Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesman, said some in the media “have allowed the most dishonest president in American history to function as their assignment editor” in the aftermath of reports that Trump pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate the former vice president’s son Hunter Biden.
“Quality reporting on this issue has made it increasingly clear that Trump did indeed attempt to bully a U.S. ally into disingenuously investigating the potential Democratic nominee he fears most,” Bates said in an email to reporters. “The second narrative that needs to be pointed out is that, unfortunately, not all coverage of this episode has responsibly highlighted the relevant facts that have been widely reported for months.”
The Biden campaign raised its concerns as Trump insisted on Monday that he “put no pressure on them whatsoever” to investigate Hunter Biden. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Trump asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky eight times in that call to investigate the younger Biden. Trump has acknowledged that he brought up Biden in the July phone conversation with the newly-elected Zelensky that Trump says served as a mostly congratulatory call.
Trump told reporters Monday while at the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly that “what Biden did was wrong” and suggested that he might eventually release a transcript of the call — something that the former vice president and Democratic lawmakers are demanding.
Trump said a transcript would show that he did nothing wrong, but he also said he is concerned about the precedent of releasing details of a call with a foreign leader.
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The back-and-forth comes as scrutiny of Trump’s actions during the call is mounting amid renewed calls among House Democrats to impeach Trump.
The issue came to a head after a multiple news reports about a whistleblower complaint brought by a member of the intelligence community raised concerns about Trump’s comments to a foreign leader. The whistleblower complaint remains secret, and Democrats and the Trump administration are in a standoff over demands that the report be turned over to Congress.
Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani for months have pushed uncorroborated claims that Biden as vice president sought the 2016 ouster of Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general Viktor Shokin to stop an investigation into Burisma Group, a Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden served on the board of directors.
Giuliani alleged in an interview on Fox News Sunday that Biden pressured Ukraine to fire Shokin, because “Biden knew that they were zeroing in on Hunter and he went over there and got [Shokin] fired.”
The push by the former vice president, however, came alongside calls for Ukraine to get rid of Shokin from both European diplomats and the U.S State Department, because international leaders felt Shokin was doing too little to fight corruption in the Eastern European country.
The New York Times reported in May that Biden, while still serving as vice president , threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees unless Ukraine reduced its corruption. Part of that demand called for removing the country’s top prosecutor, Shokin, who was investigating the oligarch behind Burisma.
Shokin was accused by U.S. officials of ignoring corruption in his own office. The Ukrainian Parliament eventually voted him out.
But Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s current prosecutor, told Bloomberg News Service in May that he had no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or his son.
The Biden campaign says that Trump his allies are trying to muddy the waters about the former vice president’s actions in Ukraine because they see Biden as the most potent potential 2020 Democratic rival.
“The president and his lackeys are so terrified of that prospect — and have abandoned any pretense of having an iota of truth on their side as they flail and try to distract from what may be the greatest presidential malfeasance since Watergate — that they fell all over themselves lying on the Sunday shows,” Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Beddingfield said in a memo to interested parties that was titled “Correcting the Record on Rudy Giuliani’s Lies.”
Biden told reporters while campaigning in Iowa on Saturday that he has never spoken to Hunter Biden about his overseas business dealings, but the younger Biden told the New Yorker magazine in an article published in July that two had one brief exchange about Burisma around December 2015.
Around the time of the conversation, Biden was preparing for a trip to the Ukraine and the Obama administration special envoy had raised the issue of Hunter’s work with Burisma with the Vice President, according to the article.
“‘Dad said, ‘I hope you know what you’re doing,” and I said, ‘I do,’ ” the younger Biden is quoted as saying in the article.
Contributing: Bart Jansen