In his first solo press conference since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced a formal impeachment probe into his interactions with Ukraine, President Donald Trump on Wednesday attempted to turn the tables on his political opponents with a baseless accusation.
When asked by a reporter why it’s OK for a U.S. president to ask a foreign country to investigate his political opponent, Trump falsely retorted that former President Barack Obama had done that to him.
“Well, that’s what he did, isn’t it?” Trump said in reference to Obama. “Really, when you think about it, that whole witch hunt was started, and hopefully that will all come out,” he said before trailing off with a list of books he said would back him up.
He put forth another conspiracy theory that the timing of the whistleblower media coverage was only to distract from his meetings at the U.N. General Assembly.
“That was all planned,” he said. “Like everything, that was all planned.”
Trump leaned on his regular talking points throughout the speech, scolding the media for not giving enough coverage to his United Nations General Assembly meetings and accusing the Democrats of sowing division.
“It’s very sad what the Democrats are doing to this country,” he said. “They’re dividing, they’re belittling, they’re demeaning our country.”
After speaking for around 20 minutes, he took only a few questions from reporters.
Trump’s remarks come hours after the White House released a summary of his July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the details of which were first uncovered last week in a series of bombshell media reports about a related whistleblower complaint.
That summary, which is not a full transcript, reveals that Trump implored Zelensky to “do us a favor, though” immediately after the Ukrainian leader told Trump he was grateful for the military aid the U.S. had provided to his country.
Trump had two favors in mind, the summary revealed. First, he wanted Ukraine to investigate the baseless theory that Russia did not actually hack Democratic National Committee servers in 2016 in order to aid Trump’s campaign.
Secondly, Trump asked Zelensky to open an investigation into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, whom Trump might face in the 2020 presidential election.
“The other thing,” Trump said, per the summary, “there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great.”
Trump went on: “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you could look into it … it sounds horrible to me.”
Trump was referring to Hunter Biden, who began working with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma in 2014, while his father was serving in the Obama administration. The prosecution he referenced was a Ukrainian investigation into Burisma, which ended without any convictions.
Despite Trump’s assertions, the Bidens have not been accused of legal wrongdoing related to the company.
Trump also asked Zelensky to meet with Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor now serving as Trump’s private attorney, and to speak with Attorney General William Barr to discuss the investigation.
Trump insisted at his Wednesday press conference that the phone call was “perfect” and that anything the Democrats have to say about is “phony” and a “witch hunt.”
“When they look at the information, it’s a joke,” he said. “Impeachment for that?”
He also cast doubt on the trustworthiness of the whistleblower.
“The so-called whistleblower, the one that didn’t have any first class or first-rate or second-tier information from what I understand, you’ll have to figure that out for yourself,” he said.