Washington – During an often rambling defense Wednesday of his phone call to the president of Ukraine, President Donald Trump accused Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy of threatening the Ukrainian leader.
“Senator Chris Murphy literally threatened the president of Ukraine that if he doesn’t do things right, they won’t have Democrat support in Congress,” Trump said at a press conference in New York.
Trump later said unnamed Democratic senators told President Volodymyr Zelensky “you do this, you do that, or we are not going to give you votes” for U.S. aid.
Murphy denied threatening Zelensky.
“I stand by my belief that the president of the United States should never be allowed to use the Oval Office for personal gain, especially when it includes leveraging away the international credibility of the United States,” Murphy said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
He also said he was not surprised Trump attacked him on Wednesday since “in a preview” the president’s personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said in a televised interview that Murphy should be impeached.
Murphy and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., traveled to Kiev earlier this month, where they met with Zelensky.
Upon returning to Washington D.C., Murphy and Johnson said the Ukrainian president was concerned about $250 million in stalled U.S. foreign aid.
Murphy, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he told the Zelensky he would do everything he could to get the money released.
He said he also cautioned Zelensky that if the Ukrainian government received requests from the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, that would be different from getting a request from someone connected to the Trump campaign, or to White House politics. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, had been pressing Ukraine’s government to conduct an investigation of the role played by former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter in a Ukrainian gas company that was once under investigation.
“[Zelesnky] wasn’t surprised that I brought it up … his response was pretty simple: that they have no intention of getting involved in an American election,” Murphy said about his meeting with the Ukrainian president.
In the statement released Wednesday, Murphy said “In the meeting Republican Senator Ron Johnson and I had with President Zelensky three weeks ago, I made it clear to him that Ukraine should not become involved in the 2020 election and that his government should communicate with the State Department, not the president’s campaign. I still believe this to be true.”
The White House on Wednesday released a partial transcript of a call Trump had with Zelensky on July 25. According to that document, Trump asked Zelensky to do him a “favor” after the Ukrainian president said he’d like more military aid from the United States. That “favor” was that his government speak with U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Giuliani about an investigation into the Bidens.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that in pressuring Zelensky to investigate a political rival, Trump had violated the U.S. Constitution. On Tuesday, she announced the House would begin an impeachment inquiry of Trump’s actions in the Ukrainian affair and other conduct by the president.