Trump ‘asked former Ukraine president to announce Biden investigation in exchange for state visit’

Report claims Petro Poroshenko approached in February by associates of Rudy Giuliani

Andrew Buncombe
Friday 08 November 2019 20:17
Donald Trump refuses to rule out government shutdown if Democrats continue impeachment inquiry

Donald Trump made a request to the former president of Ukraine to announce an investigation into Joe Biden, in exchange for a state visit to Washington, it has been reported.

As impeachment investigators on Capitol Hill hear testimony from witnesses amid claims the president improperly sought a quid pro quo during a July phone call to Ukraine leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, a report said that associates of Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, made a similar request to his predecessor.

The Wall Street Journal said Edward MacMahon, a lawyer for one of two associates of Mr Giuliani who were arrested last month on campaign finance charges, said the men had made the request to Ukraine’s former leader, Petro Poroshenko, in February of this year.

He said the two men, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, the latter of whom is his client, had been acting at the behest of Mr Giuliani, who in turn was carrying out the orders of Mr Trump.

“There isn’t anything that Parnas did in the Ukraine relative to the Bidens or the 2016 election that he wasn’t asked to do by Giuliani, who was acting on the direction of the president,” Mr MacMahon said.

Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman, who are both now American citizens, were arrested at Dulles International Airport near Washington DC and charged with a series of offences, including conspiracy, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and falsification of records.

They both pleaded not guilty.

They were the first individuals arrested in connection to broader allegations that Mr Giuilani was seeking to push Ukraine to dig up dirt on Mr Biden and launch an investigation into him and his son.

The Journal quoted Robert Costello, who Mr Giuliani recently retained as his own lawyer as the impeachment investigation intensifies, as saying the former New York City mayor had no knowledge of a February meeting with Mr Poroshenko.

There was no immediate response to the claims from the White House.

Lindsey Graham says Ukraine policy 'incoherent' and White House 'incapable' of putting quid pro quo together

If true, the claims would underscore the extent and scale of Mr Giuliani’s outreach to Ukraine on behalf of the president, as they allegedly sought to put pressure on Kiev to launch a probe into claims Mr Biden acted improperly when he acted as part of an international effort to oust a prosecutor.

Mr Trump and Mr Giulani have long supported a conspiracy theory that the server of the Democratic National Committee, allegedly hacked by Russia in 2016, was located in Ukraine and was somehow connected to the original investigation into Moscow’s interference.

Mr Biden has always denied any wrong doing over his actions as part of an international effort to get rid of a prosecutor who appeared to moving too slowly to tackle corruption and there has never been any evidence to support it. Despite, this Republicans have leapt on the issue.

In September, a whistleblower, believed to be a member of the US intelligence service, alleged that in a July 25 phone call with the country’s new leader, Mr Trump improperly sought a “quid pro quo” in exchange for close relations and the release of $400m of military assistance. Specifically, the whistleblower claims Mr Trump asked Mr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.

Mr Trump has dismissed the claims and said he did nothing wrong. However, the allegations have been enough for Democrats to launch a formal impeachment investigation, which the president has described as a “witch hunt”

This week, the House of Representatives has been releasing transcripts of testimony from various officials and diplomats interviewed as part of the impeachment probe. The bulk of the testimony has said Mr Trump did indeed seek a quid pro quo from Mr Zelensky, who replaced Mr Poroshenko in May.

On Friday, the House released the latest transcripts, which contained testimony from Lt Col Alexander Vindman, director for European affairs on the national security council, and Fiona Hill, who served as the administration’s top Russia expert.

The evidence released showed Mr Vindman told investigators there was “no doubt” the president was asking for investigations into his political rivals.

He also said there was an obligation for the Ukrainian president to “fulfil this particular requisite” of publicly announcing investigations into Mr Biden, and the origins of the Russia probe, in order to receive a White House visit.

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