Vice President Pence defended President Trump on Monday night for having brought up former vice president Joe Biden and his son in a July phone call with the leader of Ukraine, arguing that Trump is a victim of an “assume-the-worst media.”
Speaking to reporters in New York on Monday, Trump denied that he had offered military aid to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky only if the country launched a probe into Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
The call is part of a potentially explosive whistleblower report. Trump told his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine at least a week before the call in which Trump is said to have pressured Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden, according to three senior administration officials.
In his Fox News appearance, Pence characterized Trump’s communication with Zelensky as a “congratulatory call” on an election that he won “built largely on the message of an anti-corruption campaign.” Zelensky had been inaugurated as president on May 20.
“The president spoke to him about our concern, investing hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars in seeing him move for a reform agenda,” Pence said. “President Trump made it clear that we’ve got to see reforms.”
“He mentioned Vice President Biden and his son in the context of us wanting to see honest government,” Pence continued. “That’s exactly what the American taxpayer would expect.”
Echoing Trump’s comment hours earlier, Pence insisted “there was no quid pro quo” regarding an investigation of the Bidens and military aid.
Hunter Biden served for nearly five years on the board of Burisma, Ukraine’s largest private gas company, whose owner came under scrutiny by Ukrainian prosecutors for possible abuse of power and unlawful enrichment.
Hunter Biden was not accused of any wrongdoing in the investigation. As vice president, Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who Biden and other Western officials said was not sufficiently pursuing corruption cases — at one point, threatening to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees. At the time, the investigation into Burisma was dormant, according to former Ukrainian and U.S. officials.
Since spring, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani has pushed the Ukrainians to investigate the matter.
Acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has been unwilling to turn over the whistleblower complaint to Congress, a refusal that has rankled Democrats and heightened calls to impeach Trump. The whistleblower, whose identity has not been publicly disclosed, is said to be a U.S. intelligence official.