Trump says he put ‘no pressure’ on Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AFP) – United States (US) President Donald Trump on Monday swatted away mounting pressure from Democrats demanding his impeachment, rejecting accusations he had offered aid to Ukraine only if it investigated his political rival Joe Biden.

Battered by the burgeoning scandal during his first full day at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Trump tried to shift the controversy toward Biden, accusing the former vice president, without evidence, of engaging in corruption in Ukraine.

Democrats have fumed as Trump’s administration has blocked Congress from obtaining a whistleblower’s secret complaint allegedly detailing the president’s actions, and they ramped up their demands for the document that sparked the latest crisis.

The complaint reportedly centres on Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, and a possible attempt to coerce him into digging up damning information about Biden’s son’s business dealings in Ukraine.

In the days before the phone call Trump ordered his chief of staff to withhold almost USD400 million in military aid earmarked for Ukraine, The Washington Post and New York Times reported late Monday, quoting senior administration officials.

The officials were instructed to tell lawmakers the freeze was due to an “interagency process”, but to provide no additional information, the Post said.

In a startling earlier admission, Trump acknowledged addressing alleged corruption involving Biden and son Hunter on the call.

“Joe Biden and his son are corrupt,” he said in a bald attack, providing few details other than to say Hunter Biden, who once served on a Ukrainian natural gas company’s board, “took money from Ukraine.”

To date, there has been no evidence of illegal conduct in Ukraine by the Bidens.