Congress wants answers on Trump's dig for Biden dirt

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers in Congress on Monday pressed for full disclosure of a whistleblower's complaint about President Donald Trump as Democratic calls for impeachment intensified over his conversation with Ukraine's leader. Trump insisted he did nothing wrong.

Democrats, and some Republicans, urged the White House to be forthcoming amid the reports that the president pressured Ukraine's leader to help investigate political rival Joe Biden at the same time the administration was withholding $250 million in aid to the Eastern European nation.

Trump's call to the foreign leader, and his subsequent comments about it Monday, raised further questions about whether the president improperly used his office to pressure another country as a way of helping his own reelection prospects. More House Democrats are calling for his impeachment ahead of a closed-door meeting Tuesday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi as Trump's actions pose a new test for Congress's ability to provide a check on the White House.

Trump acknowledged the phone call and said he didn't want to give money to Ukraine — if there were corruption issues.

"It's very important to talk about corruption," Trump told reporters as he opened meetings at the United Nations. "If you don't talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is, is corrupt?"

Later Monday, Trump denied telling the Ukraine president that his country would only get U.S. aid if it investigated Biden's son. "I didn't do it," he said.

Trump has sought, without evidence, to implicate Biden and his son Hunter in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration's diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.

Hunter Biden through the years
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Hunter Biden through the years
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: World Food Program USA Board Chairman Hunter Biden speaks on stage at the World Food Program USA's Annual McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony at Organization of American States on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images for World Food Program USA)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: (L-R) U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Hon. Dan Glickman, and Hunter Biden attend the World Food Program USA's Annual McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony at Organization of American States on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images for World Food Program USA)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: World Food Program USA Board Chairman Hunter Biden (L) and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden attend the World Food Program USA's Annual McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony at Organization of American States on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images for World Food Program USA)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: World Food Program USA Board Chairman Hunter Biden and Kathleen Biden arrive at the World Food Program USA's Annual McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony at Organization of American States on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for World Food Program USA)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: WFP USA Board Chair Hunter Biden speaks during the World Food Program USA's 2016 McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony at the Organization of American States on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Kris Connor/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 28: Hunter Biden attends the T&C Philanthropy Summit with screening of "Generosity Of Eye" at Lincoln Center with Town & Country on May 28, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Town & Country)
US Vice President Joe Biden (C) buys an ice-cream at a shop as he tours a Hutong alley with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden (R) and son Hunter Biden (L) in Beijing on December 5, 2013. Biden said on December 5 China's air zone had caused "significant apprehension" and Beijing needed to reduce Asia-Pacific tensions to protect its growing stake in regional peace and stability. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Andy Wong (Photo credit should read ANDY WONG/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - DECEMBER 04: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden waves as he walks out of Air Force Two with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden (C) and son Hunter Biden (R) at the airport December 4, 2013 in Beijing, China. Biden is on the first leg of his week-long visit to Asia. (Photo by Ng Han Guan-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 01: Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden and World Food Program USA Board Chair Hunter Biden taking the Live Below the Line Challenge, eating and drinking on $1.50 a day to raise awareness of global hunger and World Food Programme school feeding efforts around the world, at World Food Program USA on May 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
President Barack Obama, left, Vice President Joe Biden, center, and Hunter Biden share a laugh during the first half of the NCAA basketball game between Georgetown and Duke at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., Saturday January 30, 2010. Georgetown defeated Duke, 89-77. (Photo by Chuck Myers/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 29: Hunter Biden (l) and actor Woody Harrelson pose for a photo at the after party following the 2nd Annual IMPACT Film Festival's screening of "The Messenger" at Posh on October 29, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (2R) arrives at Arlington National Cemetery with his wife Dr. Jill Biden (R), his son Hunter (L) and his daughter-in-law Kathleen for the internment services for U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy in Arlington, Virginia, August 29, 2009. Kennedy died late Tuesday after a battle with cancer. AFP PHOTO/POOL/Jim BOURG (Photo credit should read JIM BOURG/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - JANUARY 20: Vice-President Joe Biden arrives with his family, wife Jill, sons Hunter and Beau at the reviewing stand to watch the Inaugural Parade from in front of The White House January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, becoming the first African-American to be elected to the President in the US. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Hunter Biden and guest attend the Artists And Athletes Alliance red carpet event at Inaugural Honors ServiceNation, held at Cafe Milano in Georgetown January 19, 2009 Washington, DC. (Photo by Logan Mock-Bunting/Getty Images)

The matter is under new scrutiny following the whistleblower's mid-August complaint, which followed Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The person who filed the complaint did not have firsthand knowledge of the call, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Lawmakers are demanding details of the complaint, but the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has refused to share that information, citing presidential privilege. He is set to testify Thursday before the House.

"Let's see the transcript," said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, about Trump's call with the Ukraine president.

The chairmen of the House intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Government Reform committees are threatening to subpoena Secretary of State Mike Pompeo if he does not produce information about whether Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, inappropriately tried to influence the Ukraine government for political gain.

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York called on Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to investigate the whistleblower's complaint. In a letter to McConnell, he said that the Republicans' "see no evil, hear no evil" attitude toward the president's actions "is unacceptable and must change."

Schumer called on McConnell to take five specific steps, including issuing a subpoena to compel the whistleblower's complaint to be delivered to Congress. He said the White House should release transcripts of Trump's conversation with the Ukraine president and identify who in the administration sought to delay the money to Ukraine.

"The Republican-led Senate has remained silent and submissive, shying away from this institution's constitutional obligation to conduct oversight," Schumer wrote in the letter.

Still, Democrats themselves remained divided on moving forward with an effort to impeach Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has resisted calls for impeachment and is sticking with her position that Congress must not start formal proceedings unless the American public demands it.

However, Pelosi said Sunday that unless the administration provides more information to Congress by the scheduled Thursday hearing at the intelligence committee, its officials "will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation."

More than half the House Democrats have said they support impeachment, and more are expected this week to publicly favor such an investigation, but others worry it is too politically divisive and would only alienate more centrist voters.

Two freshman Democrats from Minnesota, Reps. Dean Phillips and Angie Craig, became the latest to move closer to impeachment.

"I came to Congress on a mission to clean up corruption and restore America's trust in our government," Phillips said in a statement. "If the reports are corroborated, we must pursue articles of impeachment and report them to the full House of Representatives for immediate consideration."

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida doesn't think Trump's actions are grounds for impeachment, but said he wouldn't have called a foreign leader to discuss a rival.

"I don't think he should have raised the topic of Joe Biden with the Ukraine president," Rubio said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday the matter is best left behind closed doors in the classified setting of the intelligence committee, though he did push into the spotlight his own role in securing the Ukraine aid.

McConnell said he had been "personally pressuring" the Trump administration this summer in calls to Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to release the U.S. aid money.


The Intelligence Committee chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said he needed more information. So did other Republicans.

"We need to get the facts," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said seeing the report and transcript "would be helpful."

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Sen. David Perdue of Georgia — Trump allies — declined to comment.

And Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said he remains "very skeptical. I've seen this movie before. We have these breathless complaints about the president that turn out to be not true."

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the president's closest allies, urged Trump on Monday to be "as transparent as possible" and predicted the White House transcript would be released.

"I think he did nothing wrong and he has nothing to hide," Graham said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show.

Trump said Monday he may, or may not, release details or a transcript of the call but has stressed that foreign leaders should feel free to speak frankly with an American president without fear that the details of their conversations will later be disclosed.

A person familiar with the matter has told The Associated Press that Trump urged Zelenskiy to investigate Hunter Biden. The person wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Hunter Biden was hired by the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings in April 2014, two months after Ukraine's Russia-friendly former president was ousted by protesters and as Biden's father was heavily involved in U.S. efforts to support the new pro-Western government. The move immediately raised concerns that the Ukrainian firm, whose owner was a political ally of the ousted president, was seeking to gain influence with the Obama administration.

Trump and Zelenskiy plan to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly this week.


Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Matthew Daly, Michael Balsamo and Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed.

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