Politics

Trump says he did not ask Ukraine to investigate Biden in exchange for aid

Key Points
  • U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said that he did not tell Ukranian leader Volodymyr Zelensky that the country would only receive aid if it investigated former Vice President Joe Biden and his family.
  • Trump's call with Zelensky is reportedly the subject of a whistleblower's complaint that has sparked a disclosure fight between government branches.
  • Lawmakers have demanded details of the complaint and some have said the White House should release transcripts of Trump's conversation with the Ukranian president.
President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee | Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said that he did not tell Ukranian leader Volodymyr Zelensky that the country would only receive aid if it investigated former Vice President Joe Biden and his family.

Trump's call with Zelensky is reportedly the subject of a whistleblower's complaint that has sparked a disclosure fight between government branches. Lawmakers have demanded details of the complaint and some have said the White House should release transcripts of Trump's conversation with the Ukranian president.

It has also spurred new accusations of wrongdoing — and calls for impeachment from Democrats.

"I hope you're going to be able to see a call (transcript) because I didn't do it," Trump told reporters on Monday. "When you see the call, you're going to be very surprised."

On Sunday, Trump acknowledged that he discussed Biden, who is also running for president in 2020, with Zelensky but denied accusations that he is using the power of his office to hurt a major political rival, NBC News reported. Trump was said to have pressed the Ukranian leader to investigate Biden's son, Hunter, and his business dealings in the country and whether they affected the former vice president's diplomatic efforts.

Critics have raised the possibility that Trump was attempting a quid pro quo arrangement with Ukraine, which was at that time still awaiting military aid from the U.S., NBC News said.

"I did not make a statement that 'You have to do this or I'm not going to give you aid.' I wouldn't do that," Trump said on Monday. He also pointed to Biden threatening to withhold Ukranian aid while vice president. "Joe Biden is the one that did a very, very bad thing when he said that, and I think it was $1.2 billion, he wasn't going to give unless they got rid of a prosecutor who was investigating his son and the company that his son works for."

The New York Times reported in May that Biden, while vice president, threatened to withhold $1 billion in American loan guarantees if the nation's leaders did not fire Ukraine's top prosecutor. Biden made the threat during a March 2016 visit to Ukraine's capital, the Times reported. Ukraine's prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, had been accused of ignoring corruption throughout the country's political class as well as his own office, the Times said.

The prosecutor was ultimately 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 Hunter Biden. The younger Biden has said he had no role whatsoever in relation to any investigation of Burisma or any of its officers.

"We're giving a lot of money away to Ukraine and other places," Trump said on Monday. "You want to see a country that's going to be not corrupt. The (Ukranian) president is a good man, he got elected on the fact that he was going to get rid of corruption in Ukraine."

Presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Monday he can't be "100%" certain that Trump did not threaten to withhold aid from Ukraine but still called it a "false story."

When asked if he can and if he would authorize the release of the call transcripts, Trump told reporters: "I can do it very easily but I'd rather not do it from the standpoint of all of the other conversations I have. I may do it because it was a very innocent call on both his part and mine. We've had a very nice call. It was really a congratulatory call."

— The Associated Press and CNBC's Dan Mangan contributed to this report.