President Donald Trump on Saturday sought to deflect the glare of the Ukraine whistleblower controversy onto Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, echoing a public campaign by his allies to discredit his potential political opponent while continuing to play down his own role in it.
“The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, want to stay as far away as possible from the Joe Biden demand that the Ukrainian Government fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son, or they won’t get a very large amount of U.S. money, so they fabricate a story about me and a perfectly fine and routine conversation I had with the new President of the Ukraine.” Trump wrote.
“Nothing was said that was in any way wrong, but Biden’s demand, on the other hand, was a complete and total disaster. The Fake News knows this but doesn’t want to report!” Trump continued.
In Trump’s most direct comments yet on Biden, he amplified allegations that during the Obama administration, the then-vice president threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid from Ukraine while demanding the firing of a state prosecutor who was looking into a gas company where Biden’s son, Hunter, held a board position.
Citing a potential conflict of interest, PolitiFact has rated similar allegations against Biden as “half-true,” with the caveat that the accusation overreaches “by assuming that Joe Biden acted to protect the company his son was affiliated with,” and noting that the Ukrainian prosecutor had drawn widespread criticism on his record of fighting corruption.
Trump’s claim comes after multiple reports that the president repeatedly pressed Ukrainian officials to investigate Hunter Biden, prompting a whistleblower complaint by an intelligence official and a stonewalled congressional review.
Trump on Friday did not deny that he discussed the Biden allegations with a foreign leader, but asserted that his exchanges with fellow heads of government are “always appropriate.”
Biden, who has denied the allegations, on Friday called on Trump to release a July phone call at the center of the reports.
“If these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump’s willingness to abuse his power and abase our country,” he said in a statement. On Saturday in Iowa, Biden said Trump is using “every element of the presidency to try to smear me.”
“The boomerang comes right back on Biden, his family and the Democrats,” Fox News host Sean Hannity said Friday night.
“We have Joe Biden on tape, leveraging your money, a billion dollars worth of it, to fire the prosecutor in six hours or he’s taking his money home, the company that was investigating the corruption into a gas company that his son was doing business with,” Hannity continued.
Former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker called the whistleblower accusations “cowardly” Friday night on Hannity’s show while criticizing ongoing media coverage.
“They took illegitimate means by filing this whistle-blower complaint which is not appropriate under the whistle-blower statute and then of course “The Washington post” gets all of it and run with it. It is scurrilous. It’s cowardly and it’s not the way it’s supposed to work,” Whitaker said.
Trump first addressed the Biden allegations while at a press gaggle in the Oval Office on Friday during Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s state visit.
“It doesn’t matter what I discussed but I will say this: somebody ought to look into Joe Biden’s statement because it was disgraceful, where he talked about millions of dollars that he is not giving to a certain country unless a certain prosecutor is taken off the case. Somebody ought to look into that,” Trump said.
The president followed up his Saturday tweet by posting a Trump campaign video showing Biden during a press gaggle saying “not one single credible outlet, has given any credibility to assertion.”
The video continues with clips of various cable-news panels and reporters talking about the allegations against Biden, contradicting Trump’s tweeted claim that the media “want to stay as far away as possible” from covering the story.
The president later Saturday called reports he acted improperly in conversations with foreign officials a “Ukraine Witch Hunt.”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine