What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump repeatedly prodded Ukraine's new leader to work with the U.S. attorney general and lawyer Rudy Giuliani to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden, according to a rough transcript summarizing the call released Wednesday. In the call, Trump raised allegations, without citing any evidence, that the former vice president sought to interfere with a Ukrainian prosecutor's investigation of his son Hunter. "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," Trump said to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The conversation between the two leaders is one piece of a whistleblower's complaint, which followed the July 25 call. The complaint is central to the formal impeachment inquiry launched Tuesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The White House account of the call reveals that Trump was willing to engage a foreign leader to dig up dirt on a political foe and he goes so far as to volunteer his attorney general to help. But Trump appears to stop short in the call of any explicit quid pro quo, such as linking Ukraine's help to American military aid or other assistance. Days before the call, Trump froze nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine. It was not clear from the summary whether Zelenskiy was aware of that. The president has insisted he did nothing wrong and has denied that any request for help was tied to the aid freeze. It's illegal under federal law to seek foreign government assistance for U.S. elections. The release of the rough transcript sets the parameters of the political debate to come. Trump, at the U.N. on Wednesday, dismissed it and said as he often does that's he's the victim of "the single greatest witch hunt in American history." Democrats say it lays the groundwork for the congressional impeachment inquiry. Trump aides believed that his oblique, message-by-suggestion style of speaking would not lend itself to the discovery of a "smoking gun" in Wednesday's summary. His previous messages to his staff were at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into obstruction of justice in the Trump-Russia case. One example in the summary: Trump says to Zelenskiy, "I would like for you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it." In the conversation, Trump doesn't distinguish between the roles of Giuliani, his personal attorney and political ally, and Barr, who as the nation's top law enforcement officer is supposed to be above the political fray. Barr has been a staunch defender of Trump, most notably during the Mueller investigation. "Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man, he was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you," Trump said, according to the call summary. "I will ask him to call you along with the attorney general." Immediately after saying Giuliani and Barr would be in touch, Trump references Ukraine's economy, saying: "Your economy is going to get better and better I predict. You have a lot of assets. It's a great country." It's not the first time Trump has sought foreign assistance to undermine a political rival. He publicly asked Russia to find missing Hillary Clinton emails in 2016, but this is his first documented time doing so while president with the weight of the U.S. government at his disposal. The president took the 30-minute call from the White House residence, while officials in the Situation Room listened in and worked to keep a record of the conversation, as is standard practice. They used voice recognition software, but the call was not recorded. Trump ordered the document declassified Tuesday. The release came against the backdrop of the president presiding over a meeting of world leaders at the United Nations, a remarkable split screen even for the turbulence of the Trump era. The inspector general for the intelligence community wrote to the acting Director of National Intelligence in August that he believed the conversation between Trump and Ukraine's leader could have been a federal campaign finance violation because the president could have been soliciting a campaign contribution from a foreign government, a Justice Department official said. The whistleblower — a member of the intelligence community — said in their complaint that they had heard the information from "White House officials," but did not have firsthand knowledge of the call, the Justice Department official said. Prosecutors from the department reviewed a transcript of the call and determined the president did not violate campaign finance law. The determination was made based on the elements of the allegation, and there was no consideration of the department's policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted, the official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal investigative deliberations. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the attorney general was first notified of Trump's conversation with the Ukrainian president "several weeks after the call took place," when the department received the referral about potential criminal conduct. "The president has not spoken with the attorney general about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son. The president has not asked the attorney general to contact Ukraine -- on this or any other matter," the spokeswoman said. Trump has sought to implicate Biden and his son in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration's diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son. Lawmakers have been demanding details of the whistleblower's complaint, but the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has refused to share that information, citing presidential privilege. He is to testify Thursday before the House, and lawmakers are expected to have access to details of the complaint beforehand in a classified setting. The complaint has set off a stunning turn of American political events, leading Pelosi to yield to mounting pressure from fellow Democrats on the impeachment inquiry. Trump, who thrives on combat, has all but dared Democrats to take this step, confident that the specter of impeachment led by the opposition party will bolster rather than diminish his political support. ___ Associated Press Writers Eric Tucker, Lisa Mascaro and Colleen Long contributed to this report.

Trump says he had ‘perfectly fine’ call with Ukraine leader

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump urged the new leader of Ukraine this summer to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a person familiar with the matter said. Democrats condemned what they saw as a clear effort to damage a political rival, now at the center of an explosive whistleblower complaint against Trump.

It was the latest revelation in an escalating controversy that has created a showdown between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration, which has refused to turn over the formal complaint by a national security official or even describe its contents.

Trump is defending himself against the intelligence official’s complaint, asserting that it comes from a “partisan whistleblower,” though the president also says he doesn’t know who had made it. The complaint was based on a series of events, one of which was a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to a two people familiar with the matter. The people were not authorized to discuss the issue by name and were granted anonymity.

In a tweet Saturday, Trump referred to “a perfectly fine and routine conversation I had” with Ukraine’s leader. “Nothing was said that was in any way wrong.”

Trump, in that call, urged Zelenskiy to probe the activities of potential Democratic rival Biden’s son Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company, according to one of the people, who was briefed on the call. Trump did not raise the issue of U.S. aid to Ukraine, indicating there was not an explicit quid pro quo, according to the person.

In an interview with Ukrainian outlet Hromadske that was published Friday evening, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said his country was not interested in taking sides in U.S. politics, but that Zelenskiy had the right to keep the contents of his conversation with Trump secret.

“I know what the conversation was about and I do not think there was any pressure” from Trump, Prystaiko was quoted as saying. “There was a conversation, different conversation, leaders have the right to discuss any existing issues. This was a long and friendly conversation that touched on a lot of issues, sometimes requiring serious answers.”

Biden said that if the reports are true, “then there is truly no bottom to President Trump’s willingness to abuse his power and abase our country.” He said Trump should release the transcript of his July phone conversation with Zelenskiy “so that the American people can judge for themselves.”

The U.S. government’s intelligence inspector general has described the whistleblower’s Aug. 12 complaint as “serious” and “urgent.” Trump dismissed it all Friday, insisting “it’s nothing.” He scolded reporters for asking about it and said it was “just another political hack job.”

“I have conversations with many leaders. It’s always appropriate. Always appropriate,” Trump said. “At the highest level always appropriate. And anything I do, I fight for this country.”

Trump was asked whether he knew if the whistleblower’s complaint centered on the July 25 call with Zelenskiy. “I really don’t know,” Trump said.

When questioned whether he had brought up Biden in the call, Trump said, “It doesn’t matter what I discussed.” But then Trump urged the media “to look into” Biden’s background with Ukraine.

There has yet to be any evidence of any wrongdoing by Biden or his son regarding Ukraine.

Trump and Zelenskiy plan to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly this coming week. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Trump pressed Zelenskiy about Biden.

The standoff with Congress raises fresh questions about the extent to which Trump’s appointees are protecting the Republican president from oversight and, specifically, whether his new acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, is working with the Justice Department to shield the president.

Democrats say the administration is legally required to give Congress access to the whistleblower’s complaint, and Rep. Adam Schiff of California has said he will go to court in an effort to get it if necessary.

The intelligence community’s inspector general said the matter involves the “most significant” responsibilities of intelligence leadership.

House Democrats also are fighting the administration for access to witnesses and documents in impeachment probes.

In the whistleblower case, lawmakers are looking into whether Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani traveled to Ukraine to pressure the government to aid Trump’s reelection effort by investigating the activities of Biden’s son.

During an interview Thursday on CNN, Giuliani was asked whether he had asked Ukraine to look into Biden. He initially said, “No, actually I didn’t,” but seconds later he said, “Of course I did.”

Giuliani has spent months trying to drum up potentially damaging evidence about Biden’s ties to Ukraine. He told CNN that Trump was unaware of his actions.

“I did what I did on my own,” he said. “I told him about it afterward.

Still later, Giuliani tweeted, “A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job.” Democrats have contended that Trump, in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, may have asked for foreign assistance in his upcoming reelection bid.

Trump further stoked those concerns earlier this year in an interview when he suggested he would be open to receiving foreign help.

The inspector general appeared before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors Thursday but declined, under administration orders, to reveal to members the substance of the complaint.

Schiff said Trump’s attack on the whistleblower was disturbing and raised concerns that it would have a chilling effect on other potential exposers of wrongdoing. He also said it was “deeply disturbing” that the White House appeared to know more about the complaint than its intended recipient — Congress.

The information “deserves a thorough investigation,” Schiff said. “Come hell or high water, that’s what we’re going to do.”

Among the materials Democrats have sought is a transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelenskiy. The call took place one day after Mueller’s faltering testimony to Congress effectively ended the threat his probe posed to the White House. A readout of the call released from the Ukrainian government said Trump believed Kyiv could complete corruptions investigations that have hampered relations between the two nations but did not get into specifics.

Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who in May called for a probe of Giuliani’s effort in Ukraine, said in an interview on Friday it’s “outrageous” the president has been sending his political operative to talk to Ukraine’s new president. Murphy tweeted that during his own visit it was clear to him that Ukraine officials were “worried about the consequences of ignoring Giuliani’s demands.”

The senator tweeted that he told Zelenskiy during their August visit it was “best to ignore requests from Trump’s campaign operatives. He agreed.”

Letters to Congress from the inspector general make clear that Maguire consulted with the Justice Department in deciding not to transmit the complaint to Congress in a further departure from standard procedure. It’s unclear whether the White House was also involved, Schiff said.

Maguire has refused to discuss details of the whistleblower complaint, but he has been subpoenaed by the House committee and is expected to testify publicly next Thursday. Maguire and the inspector general, Michael Atkinson, also are expected next week at the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Atkinson wrote in letters that Schiff released that he and Maguire had hit an “impasse” over the acting director’s decision not to share the complaint with Congress. Atkinson said he was told by the legal counsel for the intelligence director that the complaint did not actually meet the definition of an “urgent concern.” And he said the Justice Department said it did not fall under the director’s jurisdiction because it did not involve an intelligence professional.

Atkinson said he disagreed with that Justice Department view. The complaint “not only falls under DNI’s jurisdiction,” Atkinson wrote, “but relates to one of the most significant and important of DNI’s responsibilities to the American people.”

Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann, Eric Tucker, Alan Fram and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington, D.C., and Matthew Bodner in Moscow contributed to this report.

The Latest