Trump urged Ukraine president eight times during call to investigate Joe Biden's son, report says

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump repeatedly urged Ukraine's president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter, a new report says.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump urged Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky "about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, on a probe, according to people familiar with the matter."
  • In another report, a top Ukraine official says Trump "is looking" for Ukraine officials to investigate business dealings of Biden's son in that country in an effort "to discredit" Biden as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination.
President Donald Trump
Carlos Barria | Reuters

President Donald Trump repeatedly urged Ukraine's president during a telephone call in July to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter and his involvement with a Ukraine natural gas company, a new report says.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump encouraged Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky "about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, on a probe, according to people familiar with the matter."

Biden called on President Donald Trump Friday to release the transcript of a call that is the subject of a whistleblower complaint so "the American people can judge for themselves."

"If these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump's willingness to abuse his power and abase our country. This behavior is particularly abhorrent because it exploits the foreign policy of our country and undermines our national security for political purposes," Biden said in a statement. "It means that he used the power and resources of the United States to pressure a sovereign nation — a partner that is still under direct assault from Russia — pushing Ukraine to subvert the rule of law in the express hope of extracting a political favor. Such clear-cut corruption damages and diminishes our institutions of government by making them tools of a personal political vendetta. At minimum, Donald Trump should immediately release the transcript of the call in question, so that the American people can judge for themselves, and direct the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to stop stonewalling and release the whistleblower notification to the Congress."

Biden is the current front-runner in the race to win the Democratic presidential nomination and face the Republican nominee, expected to be Trump, in the 2020 election.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC about the Journal report.

The Journal report came amid a widening controversy in Washington over another report, by The Washington Post, that Trump had been the subject of a complaint by a whistleblower related to a purported promise he had made related to Ukraine in a conversation with a foreign leader.

The Post did not identify who the leader was, but it noted that the whistleblower complained two and a half weeks after Trump spoke with the newly elected Ukraine president, Zelensky.

Meanwhile, Trump's lawyer Giuliani said in a television interview that he had asked Ukraine officials to investigate Joe Biden.

The Journal's new report came as a top Ukraine official reportedly said that Trump "is looking" for Ukraine officials to investigate business dealings of Biden's son in that country in an effort "to discredit" Biden as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination.

The official, Anton Geraschenko, told The Daily Beast that Ukraine is ready to investigate Hunter Biden's relationship with the Ukraine gas company "as soon as there is an official request."

But, he added, "Currently there is no open investigation."

Geraschenko is a senior advisor to Ukraine's interior minister, who would be in charge of any investigation of Hunter Biden.

"Clearly, Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in prison," Geraschenko told The Daily Beast.

Kompromat is a Russian word that means "compromising material."

Manafort served for several months in 2016 as the Republican Trump's presidential campaign manager and is now in federal prison for multiple crimes related to his consulting work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

His tenure with the Trump campaign ended in August 2016 after The New York Times reported that $12.7 million in secret payments earmarked for him were recorded in ledgers of that party, the Ukraine Party of Regions.

Manafort eventually was prosecuted by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of Mueller's wide-ranging probe into Russian interference in the election that year.

Giuliani for months has been pushing investigations in Ukraine related to two different issues, and has continued to do so as questions about the whistleblower has roiled Congress.

Giuliani's pressure in turn led House Democrats earlier in September to ask Trump's White House counsel for all records relating to efforts "to coerce the Ukrainian government into pursuing two politically motivated investigations under the guise of anti-corruption activity."

"The first is a prosecution of Ukrainians who provided key evidence against Mr. Trump's convicted campaign manager Paul Manafort," three top House Democrats wrote to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. "That investigation aims to undercut the Mueller Report's overwhelming evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to support Trump's campaign."

"The other case targets the son of [Joe Biden], who is challenging Mr. Trump for the presidency in 2020."

Ukraine politician: Zelensky not the best option — but better than Poroshenko

Giuliani on Thursday night said on CNN there was "a tremendous amount of collusion between Ukrainian officials" and then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee in 2016, when Clinton was facing Trump in the race for the White House.

Giuliani told CNN host Chris Cuomo that purported collusion included what he claimed was "a completely fraudulent document" — the pro-Russia Ukraine political party's ledgers — "in order to begin the investigation of Manafort."

The former New York City mayor also said that he has obtained sworn statements from "five people in the Ukraine, who said that 'we were brought into the White House, the Obama White House, and we were told, 'Go dig up dirt on Trump and Manafort in January of 2016.'"

Giuliani has not produced evidence of that alleged collusion.

In the same interview with Cuomo, during which he was highly agitated, Giuliani said that as he was investigating the supposed plot against Manafort, "I found out this incredible story about Joe Biden, that he bribed the president of the Ukraine in order to fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son."

In May, The New York Times reported that Biden, while vice president, had in March 2016 during a visit to the Ukraine capital, Kiev, threatened to withhold $1 billion in American loan guarantees if the nation's leaders did not fire Ukraine's top prosecutor, "who had been accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in his own office and among the political elite."

The prosecutor was booted by Ukraine's parliament. At the time he was dismissed, the Times noted, the prosecutor was investigating the Ukraine gas company Burisma Holdings, whose board members included Biden's son, Hunter.

Hunter Biden has said, "I have had no role whatsoever in relation to any investigation of Burisma, or any of its officers."

"I explicitly limited my role to focus on corporate governance best practices to facilitate Burisma's desire to expand globally," said Hunter, who left Burisma's board earlier this year.

The ousted prosecutor has been quoted in media reports as saying he was booted because he was investigating payments to Hunter from the company.

The Washington Post's editorial board in early September suggested that Trump himself was withholding military aid to Ukraine as part of the effort to pressure that country to probe Joe and Hunter Biden.

"Trump associates want the Ukrainian government to prove that Ukraine improperly acted against Mr. Trump in the 2016 election; but they also want it to meddle in his favor for 2020," The Post's editorial board wrote.

The Trump administration released $250 million in military aid to Ukraine on Sept. 12, a week after that editorial was published, and after Republican and Democratic lawmakers raised concerns about the delay in releasing that money, which had been approved by Congress.