Climate activist Greta Thunberg eyed down President Trump as he arrived at the UN in a viral video.
NEW YORK – As he prepared to address world leaders at the United Nations, President Donald Trump denied Tuesday that he withheld aid money from Ukraine until it decided to investigate Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
“Those funds were paid,” Trump told reporters some 30 minutes before his U.N. speech.
House Democrats, meanwhile, stepped up calls for an impeachment investigation of claims that Trump basically tried to extort Ukraine into a political probe of a political rival and his son.
“If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense,” seven freshmen House Democrats wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post, signaling a possible shift among potentially vulnerable Democrats.
Speaking briefly with reporters at the U.N., Trump said he held up aid money to Ukraine because the U.S. was paying too much while other countries were not paying enough. He again denied tying aid to an investigation of Biden, saying there was “no pressure put on them whatsoever.”
As he did throughout the day Monday, as he met with a succession on foreign leaders at this third United Nations meeting, Trump defended his actions, blasted Biden and denounced growing Democratic impeachment threats as a new kind of “witch hunt.”
But Trump also acknowledged talking to the Ukraine leader about Biden, claiming his actions and the Ukraine business interests of his son warrant investigation.
Trump has also said he had concerns about providing aid to Ukraine because of “corruption” in the country. Noting that his administration did release money to Ukraine earlier this month, Trump denied tying aid to an investigation of Biden.
“I didn’t do it,” Trump said. “I did not do that at all.”
White House aides were also working to push back on the story.
“The media pushed the Russia lie for almost 3 years with no evidence, and now they are doing it all over again,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said. “These allegations are completely false, but because the media wants this story to be true so badly, they’ll once again manufacture a frenzy and drive ignorant, fake stories to attack this president.”
An increasing number of House Democrats are calling for an impeachment inquiry, citing reports that Trump may have talked about withholding aid from Ukraine if it did not investigate his political rival.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has a series of meetings Tuesday afternoon in which impeachment will be a topic, members said.
Seven House Democrats who had held off on calls for impeachment during the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election said the Ukraine allegations take things to a new level.
“The president of the United States may have used his position to pressure a foreign country into investigating a political opponent, and he sought to use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to do it,” the Democrats wrote in The Washington Post.
One of those Democrats, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., tweeted: “I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. If true, these new allegations against the President are a threat to our national security, and constitute an impeachable offense.”
The allegations against Trump are in a whistleblower complaint that remains secret. Trump has said he may release a transcript of his July phone call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, but has also signaled he may not do so.
Trump has argued that the contents of that call were appropriate.
Some congressional Republicans, while critical of Trump’s decision to discuss Biden with a foreign leader, warned against a rush to judgement.
“It is possible to do something that is wrong and not be an impeachable offense,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “It is possible to do something that is wrong and not be an impeachable offense. and people around here are throwing that term around so loosely, it’s lost all meaning.”
It is no secret that Biden, while vice president in the Barack Obama administration, pressured Ukraine’s government to dismiss a chief prosecutor. He did so with the support of the Obama administration and other western governments who regarded the chief prosecutor as corrupt.
Trump and allies maintain that the prosecutor was an investigating a gas company in which Biden’s son Hunter was a board member. There is no evidence that any kind of investigation touched directly on Hunter Biden, though he was criticized for work in a developing country in which his father had influence.
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