WASHINGTON — President Trump defiantly declared that he did not watch the impeachment hearings that took place on Capitol Hill on Wednesday when he appeared shortly after the proceedings at a press conference alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump also denied he participated in a phone call that was described in the hearings.
The president addressed the hearings when a reporter asked him for a “general reaction” to them.
“You’re talking about the witch hunt, is that what you mean? Is that what you’re talking about?” Trump asked, adding, “I hear it’s a joke. I haven’t watched. I haven’t watched for one minute because I’ve been with the president, which is much more important as far as I’m concerned.”
Trump and Erdogan spent more than four hours in meetings on Monday. The pair came out for the press conference roughly 10 minutes after the public impeachment hearings concluded. Trump went on to describe the hearings as a “sham” that “shouldn’t be allowed.” He also criticized the unnamed whistleblower whose complaint to the intelligence community inspector general sparked the impeachment probe.
“It was a situation that was caused by people that shouldn’t have allowed it to happen. I want to find out who is the whistleblower because the whistleblower gave a lot of very incorrect information, including my call with the president of Ukraine, which was a perfect call and highly appropriate,” said Trump.
Trump said he wants to “find out why” the inspector general presented the complaint to Congress. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Trump has considered firing the intelligence community inspector general.
“All he had to do was check the call itself and he would have seen it,” Trump said of the inspector general.
The impeachment hearings are focused on concerns Trump pressed the newly elected president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who is currently mounting a White House bid. Those allegations were first raised in the whistleblower complaint, which suggested Trump pushed for an investigation in a phone call with Zelensky on July 25 and subsequently withheld military assistance to Ukraine.
Trump released a transcript of the call on Sept. 25, the day after Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally launched an impeachment inquiry based on the whistleblower complaint.
Multiple officials who testified in the closed-door phase of the inquiry corroborated portions of the whistleblower’s complaint. More than $400 million in assistance to Ukraine was held up in recent months, and it was only released following the complaint.
In the White House transcript of the call, which was not a verbatim copy, Trump brings up allegations of corruption regarding a company linked to the former vice president’s son. The president also urged Zelensky to work with his allies on a potential probe into the matter.
As he spoke with Erdogan, Trump also promised to release a transcript this week detailing an earlier call he had with Zelensky. In that call, which took place April 12, Trump congratulated the Ukrainian leader on his election.
The earlier call is not related to any of the issues raised in the impeachment probe. Trump also noted many of the officials who have testified as part of the investigation had “thirdhand information” and were not participants on the July 25 call. He also noted the transcript “was analyzed by great lawyers” and cited a pair of conservative pundits who are attorneys as an example.
“It was analyzed by everybody. They said this statement that I made, the whole call that I made with the president of Ukraine was a perfect one,” said Trump.
Trump also expressed frustration that the impeachment hearings were being discussed during Erdogan’s visit.
“We have to waste this gentleman’s time by even thinking about it, talking about it,” Trump said. “I’d much rather focus on peace in the Middle East.”
Trump and Erdogan discussed several issues in the region during the press conference, including the recent Turkish invasion of northern Syria. They also addressed Erdogan’s treatment of Kurdish people in that area, many of whom have been killed by Turkish forces. Erdogan, who repeatedly referred to Trump as his “dear friend,” referred to Kurdish forces in Syria as “terrorist groups.”
Traditionally, Trump’s press conferences with foreign heads of state involve each leader picking two reporters from their country to ask questions. Trump chose two Americans from conservative outlets: a correspondent from One America News Network and a reporter from Fox News.
Trump was asked by Fox News about testimony today from Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who told lawmakers an aide overheard Trump on the phone asking Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, for an update on a potential Ukrainian investigation of Biden. The president vehemently denied making those remarks.
“I know nothing about that,” Trump said. “First time I’ve heard it.”
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