Ukrainian president says ‘no blackmail’ in infamous July phone call with Trump

Oleksii Liskonih/iStock(LONDON) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Thursday there was “no blackmail” in a July telephone call with President Donald Trump that provoked an impeachment inquiry.

“This has nothing to do with weapons and the Burisma situation,” Zelenskiy said when asked about accusations that Trump had pressured him to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, and his role on the board of the energy company Burisma Holdings.

“There was no blackmail; it was not the subject of our conversation,” he added. “The call could have no impact on our relations with America.”

The recently elected Ukrainian leader made the comments during an all-day “press marathon” held in a food court in the capital, Kyiv, where he took questions from dozens of local and international journalists.

Questions have been raised about the Trump administration withholding aide to Ukraine around the time of the July 25 phone call between the two leaders and whether that was related to Trump’s request to Zelenskiy to investigate Biden.

When asked by ABC News Chief National Affairs Correspondent Tom Llamas about whether he thought it was corrupt for a foreign government to be asked to probe a political rival, Zelenskiy said he has broken no laws and is not corrupt, and that he will not judge Trump or his actions.

“I’m against corruption,” Zelenskiy told Llamas. “This is not corruption, it was just [a] call.”

In response to another reporter’s question about how this could impact Ukraine’s relationship with the United States, Zelenskiy responded, “I do not anticipate any change.”

“But if it happens, we will learn about that from Twitter,” Zelenskiy added, jokingly.

During a telephone call on July 25, Trump repeatedly encouraged Zelenskiy to work with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter. Zelenskiy assured Trump that his new prosecutor general “will look into the situation,” according to what the White House called a transcript of the call, which they released weeks after a whistleblower complaint was filed.

Zelenskiy also told Llamas Friday that he told Trump the country’s new prosecutor general was “100% the honest man,” making Ukraine “ready” for the United States to work with him on many issues.

“Please, invite your prosecutor general, let him join ours, but it should be according to the Ukrainian laws and international laws,” Zelenskiy said he told Trump. “I don’t mind. We don’t want to hide any case. We are open.”

Trump and Giuliani have accused Biden of calling for the dismissal of Ukraine’s former prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, back in 2016 because Shokin’s office was investigating Burisma, where Biden’s son had a seat on the board of directors.

Amid growing controversy over the call between the two leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last month that she was moving forward with a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

Several House and Senate committees have already demanded documents and witness testimony from current and former members of the administration as well as Giuliani, who has been working his own investigation into Biden and Ukraine for much of the last year.

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