'I didn't threaten anybody': Trump calls Democratic impeachment push 'a joke'
Trump responded to a political firestorm over his call with Ukraine's leader.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday continued to dismiss the political firestorm over his phone call this summer with Ukraine's leader as "a big hoax," insisting he "didn't threaten anybody" and accusing Democrats of threatening to cut assistance to Ukraine much as they have accused him of doing.
Trump spoke at a news conference in New York after the White House earlier Wednesday released a transcript of his phone call that showed he repeatedly urged Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Democrats have said Trump made almost $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine contingent on Zelenskiy agreeing to work with Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr in investigating Biden -- accusing Trump of trying to get a foreign leader to interfere in a U.S. election.
"They threatened him if he didn’t do things," Trump said about Democratic senators he said went to Ukraine to "force" the new government to do what they wanted.
"I didn’t threaten anybody. It’s all a big hoax," he said.
Trump also addressed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing Tuesday that Democrats would move forward with a formal impeachment inquiry.
"The witch hunt continues, but they're getting hit hard on this witch hunt, because when they look at the information, it's a joke," Trump said. "Impeachment for that, when you have a wonderful meeting or you have a wonderful phone conversation."
"I thought we won. I thought it was dead," Trump said, referring to the Mueller investigation when asked if he is bracing for a long impeachment process.
He demanded that Biden be "transparent" about his claim that they had taken millions of dollars out Ukraine and China and said he might release another phone conversation he had with Zelenskiy, as well as any Vice President Mike Pence had with the Ukranian president. He called them all "perfect."
The president confirmed that he had ordered a whistleblower complaint about his phone call turned over to Congress -- a move the administration initially had blocked -- giving in to one of Pelosi's demands. Senate Republicans confirmed that the complaint had arrived for senators to look at behind closed doors in a secure room.
Earlier, at a United Nations photo-op, Trump told reporters, "There was no pressure. The way you had it built up, that call, it was going to be the call from hell."
After those comments Wednesday morning, Trump, who coincidentally had an afternoon photo-op at the United Nations with Zelenskiy, got some support for his argument -- from Zelenskiy.
Asked by reporters if he felt any pressure from Trump to investigate Biden and his son -- as Democrats say the transcript shows -- Zelenskiy responded in fractured English: "I'm sorry but I don't want to be involved to democratic ... open .... elections, elections of U.S.A. No, you heard that we had, I think, good phone call. It was normal, we spoke about many things, and I, so I think and you read it that nobody pushed it, nobody pushed me."
"In other words, no pressure," Trump quickly added. "Because you know what there was no pressure. And you know there was no pressure, all you have to do is see it, what went on in the call."
Asked if he wanted Zelenskiy to do more to investigate Biden, Trump said, "I want him to do whatever he can ... because corruption's massive."
The White House memo about the call, which it said was based on “notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty officers" and not a verbatim account, shows Trump repeatedly urged Zelenskiy to work with Giuliani and Barr to investigate Biden and his son.
"It turned out to be a nothing call other than a lot of people said at the morning UN photo-op. 'I never knew you could be so nice,'" Trump said.
“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” Trump is said to have told Zelenskiy, according to the transcript. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was asked about the transcript as she arrived on Capitol Hill.
She told ABC News she said hadn't seen it yet but repeated her strong language from the impeachment announcement.
“The fact is that the President of the United States in breach of his constitutional responsibilities has asked a foreign government to help him in his political campaign at the expense of our national security, as well as undermining the integrity of our elections.”
“That cannot stand. He will be held accountable. No one is above the law.”