September 23, 2019

Rudy Giuliani Can’t Say ‘100%’ That Trump Didn’t Threaten to Cut Ukraine Aid
(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani didn’t rule out the possibility that the president threatened to cut off aid to Ukraine over calls for an investigation into largely discredited allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.Giuliani first said in response to a question on Fox Business Monday that Trump didn’t threaten Ukraine aid, but then added he “can’t say for 100%.”Trump appeared to acknowledge on Sunday that he had discussed Biden -- the 2020 Democratic presidential front-runner -- in a July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that is the subject of a congressional investigation.The episode is a preview of the kind of 2020 campaign the country will face if Biden becomes the Democratic nominee.It’s also an effort by Trump to brush Biden with scandal and damage him as a potential general-election opponent. While Biden’s lead in Democratic primary polls has shrunk, he still leads on the question of which candidate could beat Trump next fall.Partial TranscriptTrump, speaking to reporters Sunday near Houston, said he’d consider releasing a partial transcript of the call with Zelenskiy, though he added he didn’t like the idea because U.S. presidents and foreign counterparts should be free to have candid confidential conversations.White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said Monday on Fox News that releasing a transcript of Trump’s conversation with a foreign leader could set a bad precedent.Giuliani said Trump shouldn’t give Congress a transcript, even though the call reportedly factors into a whistle-blower complaint that’s at the center of the congressional probe.House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has called for a report stemming from the complaint to be released to his panel and suggested Trump’s actions “may very well have crossed the Rubicon,” warranting a further look at impeachment.“I wouldn’t give Adam Schiff anything,” Giuliani said Monday, alleging without evidence that Schiff is “fixed” and “completely dishonest.”Pelosi ResponseHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi also signaled her readiness to take stronger action against Trump. “If the administration persists in blocking this whistle-blower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the president, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation,” Pelosi said Sunday in a letter to colleagues.The Ukraine controversy involves two parallel, partisan narratives:For Biden and the Democrats, the story is Trump’s repeated solicitation of foreign help to discredit his rivals -- and his obstruction of any efforts to hold him accountable. The Ukraine story is a red herring, they say, nothing more than a debunked conspiracy theory meant to distract from Trump’s own corruption.For Trump and the Republicans, Democratic corruption is the story. The intelligence agency whistle-blower who reported Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate Biden must be a deep-state partisan, they say, part of a never-ending effort by Democrats to undermine a duly-elected president.The Ukrainian intrigue has echoes of 2016, with Trump accused of courting foreign help to discredit his rivals with real or perceived scandals. Then, it was Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails and the Trump campaign’s attempts to solicit Russia’s help in leaking them -- which became the focus of a two-year investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.This time, Trump is accused of pressuring Ukraine into investigating the accusation that Biden tried to interfere in a Ukrainian corruption investigation involving a company connected to his son, Hunter Biden.Fired ProsecutorFormer President Barack Obama’s administration, led by Biden -- along with other Western nations -- pressured Ukraine in 2016 to fire then-prosecutor general Viktor Shokin on grounds of corruption. The country’s parliament voted to remove Shokin from office.In May, Ukraine’s new prosecutor-general said he had no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or Hunter Biden, who once sat on the board of one of the country’s biggest gas companies. Vitaliy Kasko, a prosecutor who pursued a case against the gas company’s owner, told Bloomberg in May that there had been no U.S. pressure to close that case.The Biden family’s account hasn’t been entirely consistent.“I have never talked to my son about his overseas business dealings,” Joe Biden said in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday.But Hunter Biden told the New Yorker in July that they did speak about the issue one time. “Dad said, ‘I hope you know what you are doing,’ and I said, ‘I do,’” the younger Biden said.Trump seized on that discrepancy Sunday.“He made a lie when he said he never spoke to his son,” he told reporters before leaving the White House. “Who wouldn’t speak to your son? Of course you spoke to your son.”(Updates with 2020 campaign starting in fourth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Gregory Korte, Tyler Pager and Josh Wingrove.To contact the reporter on this story: Caitlin Webber in Washington at cwebber4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Kasia Klimasinska at kklimasinska@bloomberg.net, Justin Blum, Elizabeth WassermanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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