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During a “press marathon” on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the topic of his famous July 25 phone call with President Trump, including one of the “favors” Trump mentioned: to look into “the whole situation” of Ukraine’s role in the 2016 U.S. election.
“Donald Trump wasn’t the only presidential candidate whose campaign was boosted by officials of a former Soviet bloc country,” Politico‘s Kenneth Vogel and David Stern wrote in a January 2017 report that has since been cited by multiple administration officials. “Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.”
During his call with Zelensky, Trump asked for a “favor” that included looking into “this whole situation with Ukraine” in 2016, including the role played by Ukrainian-based cybersecurity company Crowdstrike, which the Democratic National Committee used to review the hacking of its emails.
“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it,” Trump told Zelensky. “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”
While The Washington Post says that “evidence so far indicates there is nothing that took place in Ukraine that even begins to compare to the Russian intervention in the 2016 election” and slams Republicans’ Crowdstrike suspicions as a “crazy stuff,” the Trump administration and some Republican congressmen, including Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), believe there’s more there than the media would like to admit.
During his “press marathon” Thursday, Zelensky announced that his government is “ready to investigate Ukraine’s alleged meddling in the U.S. elections,” referencing the 2016 election, Eastern Europe Correspondent Christopher Miller reported Thursday in a series of tweets issued during the press conference.
Zelensky also addressed his new attorney general that will be heading up future investigations.
“This is a new, young team, we’ll have a new attorney general, an open, honest person, 100%. This is my man, I said. I meant it was a person from my team, not from the old attorney general’s,” he said.
Asked by Miller about Ukraine’s potential meddling in the next election, Zelensky told him, “I don’t want to interfere in any way in the U.S. elections and I will not be doing it… Elect your own president and do not interfere in the future elections of an independent Ukraine. With due respect for the United States and America’s policy, we are not serving the latter’s purpose, as we are an independent country. However, we do not want to lose our relations, we wish to strengthen them instead.”
Zelensky also once again confirmed that he did not even know about the U.S. withholding military aid until after the phone call with Trump, undermining the Democrats’ claim that Trump was using the aid as “pressure” to force Ukraine to “dig up dirt” on Joe Biden.
Zelenskiy today also confirmed he didn't know US had held up $391 million in military aid when he spoke to Trump on July 25. Here's my reporting on that from last week, with comments from then-puzzled Ukrainian officials. https://t.co/I4Z59fsUvD
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) October 10, 2019
Trump has since responded to Zelensky’s statements Thursday as more evidence that the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is a “scam.”
“The President of the Ukraine just stated again, in the strongest of language, that President Trump applied no pressure and did absolutely nothing wrong,” Trump tweeted. “He used the strongest language possible. That should end this Democrat Scam, but it won’t, because the Dems & Media are FIXED!”
The President of the Ukraine just stated again, in the strongest of language, that President Trump applied no pressure and did absolutely nothing wrong. He used the strongest language possible. That should end this Democrat Scam, but it won’t, because the Dems & Media are FIXED!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2019