Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, a frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, on Saturday called for an investigation into reports that President Donald Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Biden and his son.
“This appears to be an overwhelming abuse of power. To get on the phone with a foreign leader who is looking for help from the United States and ask about me and imply things … this is outrageous,” a visibly angry Biden said while campaigning in Iowa.
“Trump is using this because he knows I’ll beat him like a drum and is using the abuse of power and every element of the presidency to try to do something to smear me,” Biden said.
Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is at the centre of an escalating battle over a whistleblower’s complaint reportedly concerning the U.S. leader’s dealings with Ukraine that the administration has refused to give Congress.
The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets on Friday said Trump repeatedly asked Zelensky to investigate unsubstantiated charges that Biden, while vice president, threatened to withhold U.S. aid unless a prosecutor who was looking into a gas company in which Biden’s son was involved was fired.
Trump, reports said, urged Zelensky, a comedian who had just won election, to speak with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, has promoted the allegations against Biden and his son, Hunter, and acknowledged that he pressed for a Ukrainian investigation.
Biden has admitted threatening to withhold aid unless the prosecutor was dismissed, a demand also made by the wider U.S. government, the European Union and other international institutions for his alleged failure to pursue major corruption cases.
The news reports about the Zelensky phone call have intensified demands by Democratic lawmakers for the House of Representatives to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump, and have elevated the controversy to a major campaign issue.
Trump denied doing anything improper. He wrote in a series of tweets on Saturday that his conversation with Zelensky was “perfectly fine and routine.” He accused the “Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party” of staying “as far away as possible” from the Biden allegations.