President Donald Trump confirmed Sunday he spoke about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in a call with the leader of Ukraine earlier this year, although he failed to corroborate a series of bombshell reports that claim Trump asked a foreign power to investigate one of his prime rivals in the 2020 election.
“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump told reporters on Sunday at the White House, per a pool report.
The president has been on the defense after The Wall Street Journal first reported that Trump called Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in July, during which Trump allegedly pressed his counterpart to investigate Biden’s son. News of the call came out after a whistleblower filed a complaint saying Trump asked Zelensky to work with the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on the matter.
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)
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On Sunday, Trump continued to deny that he had engaged in anything other than a congratulatory call, denying there was no impropriety in the conversation and characterizing it as “beautiful,” “warm” and “nice.”
“We had a very great conversation, very straight, very honest conversation,” Trump said, saying he’d like to release the transcript of the call while at the same time warning that foreign leaders should feel comfortable speaking “openly and good.”
“I would love to do it but you have to be a little bit shy about” releasing the transcripts, Trump told reporters.
Those claims have been echoed by senior officials in the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who went on a media blitz this weekend to say the conversations were and should remain “private.”
“I think it would be highly inappropriate to release a transcript of a call between two world leaders,” another administration official, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “What I have a problem with is Congress asking for a transcript between world leaders. I think that those are confidential discussions, and that’s a difficult precedent.”
At the same time, both Trump and Giuliani have ramped up their criticisms of Biden in an attempt to deflect from the growing scandal. Giuliani said last week that he pressed Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, but both he and the president have leveled vague charges at the former vice president.
“I’m not looking to hurt him with respect to his son,” Trump told reporters in Texas, per The Washington Post. “Joe’s got a lot of problems. Joe’s got enough problems.”
Despite the administration’s assurances that there was no wrongdoing in the White House, the reports have made waves among Democratic leadership.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday called on the Trump administration to release the whistleblower complaint to lawmakers, which the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has so far refused to do.
“The Administration’s blocking of Acting DNI Maguire from providing Congress with the whistleblower complaint calls upon him to violate the federal statute, which unequivocally states that the DNI ‘shall’ provide Congress this information,” Pelosi wrote in a letter this weekend. “The Administration is endangering our national security and having a chilling effect on any future whistleblower who sees wrongdoing.”
Pelosi has largely opposed factions within her party that want to open an impeachment inquiry against Trump, but hinted at the possibility in her letter, saying any effort to block the whistleblower complaint would “take us into a whole new stage of investigation.”