Trump calls for conditioning Ukraine aid on congressional Biden probes

Former president Donald Trump called on congressional Republicans to withhold military support for Ukraine until the Biden administration cooperates with their investigations into the president and his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings.

The demand, delivered at a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, echoed Trump’s conduct at issue during his first impeachment, when Trump withheld aid from Ukraine while pressuring the country’s president to announce an investigation of Biden.

“Congress should refuse to authorize a single additional shipment of our depleted weapons stockpiles … to Ukraine until the FBI, DOJ and IRS hand over every scrap of evidence they have on the Biden Crime Family’s corrupt business dealings,” Trump said at the rally. He added that any Republican lawmakers who didn’t join the effort should face primary challenges, a tactic he used last year to unseat Republicans who voted to impeach him for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

Republicans are investigating Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China and Ukraine during the Obama administration, when his father was vice president. Hunter Biden held a well-paid board position at a Ukrainian energy company. The White House has said Republicans have failed to present evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden.

Congressional Republicans have voiced frustration with the administration’s responses to their demands for records, a common point of tension between lawmakers and administrations of opposing parties. The Oversight Committee has obtained thousands of pages of financial records, in addition to viewing bank activity reports from the Treasury Department and a sensitive internal FBI report.

Hard-liners have been raising pressure on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to escalate the probes to an impeachment inquiry. In a shift, last week McCarthy signaled openness toward starting impeachment proceedings, without specifying the evidentiary basis.

Democratic National Committee spokesman Ammar Moussa responded Saturday: “Just like when he was impeached, Trump is using aid to Ukraine to play politics, which only serves to benefit one person: Vladimir Putin. MAGA Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Kevin McCarthy are echoing Trump’s baseless attacks, floating a political impeachment, and wasting taxpayer dollars instead of working with President Biden on actually delivering lower costs, more jobs, and safer communities for the American people.”

In 2019, Trump spoke on the phone with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and responded to his plea for missiles to help the country resist Russia’s invasion by saying, “I would like you to do us a favor though.” Trump went on to ask Zelensky to assist in finding Democratic National Committee emails that were, without substantiation, purported to be in Ukraine. He also asked Zelensky to talk to his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William P. Barr about investigating Hunter Biden.

The phone call led to a whistleblower complaint that prompted an impeachment inquiry. Trump stonewalled the proceedings and was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate acquitted him in February 2020, with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) joining the Democrats.

Trump has insisted his phone call with Zelensky was “perfect,” a claim he repeated at Saturday’s rally.

He also reprised his pledge, if reelected, to have a special prosecutor to investigate the Biden family. On Wednesday a federal judge delayed a plea deal for Hunter Biden involving two tax misdemeanors.

Trump first made that campaign promise in June on the day he was arraigned on federal charges of mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House. On Thursday prosecutors added charges accusing Trump and aides of seeking to delete surveillance footage.

Trump also received a target letter from special counsel Jack Smith in a separate investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election leading to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. An Atlanta-area prosecutor is also investigating pressure to overturn the results in Georgia.

Trump defended himself in those cases Saturday, saying his phone call pressuring Georgia officials to “find” enough votes to change the outcome was “better than the perfect call I made to Ukraine.” He also described his speech outside the White House that preceded the riot as “perfect,” attacked Smith personally and called the prosecutions politically motivated.

“Every time the Radical Left Democrats, Marxists, communists, and fascists indict me, I consider it a great badge of honor and courage,” Trump said. “I’m being indicted for you. And I believe the ‘you’ is more than 200 million people that love our country.”

Trump received 74.2 million votes in 2020.

Tyler Pager contributed to this report.

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