President Donald Trump says he discussed political rival Joe Biden with the president of Ukraine — a phone call reportedly at the heart of an unprecedented whistleblower complaint that has led to the launch of formal impeachment proceedings in the House — for one reason: a desire to root out corruption.
The former vice president, he said, wielded his influence to benefit his son Hunter’s private-sector work in Ukraine.
“What Joe Biden did for his son, that’s something they should be looking at,” Trump told reporters Tuesday, deflecting questions about the renewed push by House Democrats for impeachment proceedings in the wake of the revelations surrounding his dealings with Ukraine, which include reports that he pressured Ukraine’s leader to probe Biden and his family while that country was awaiting U.S. aid he’d delayed.
Here’s what we know about Biden’s actions as vice president with regard to Ukraine, Trump’s accusations, and Trump’s own dealings with the country’s leader.
Biden’s anti-corruption work in Ukraine
As vice president, the elder Biden lead the U.S. diplomatic efforts to bolster the country’s fledgling democracy and root out corruption after mass protests ousted the country’s pro-Russia president, Viktor Yanukovych.
Biden spoke frequently with Ukrainian leaders and in April of 2014, he traveled to Ukraine, bringing financial support and warning the Russians — who had recently annexed Crimea — to stop intervening in Ukrainian sovereignty.
In May 2014, Hunter Biden was hired by a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma Holdings, as a board member reportedly making $50,000 a month. He stopped working with the company earlier this year.
The company had ties to Yanukovych, raising eyebrows among White House aides and others who saw potential for a conflict of interest. The Obama White House said at the time the younger Biden was a private citizen, and that there was no conflict of interest.
Trump’s quid-pro-quo claims
Trump, whose July phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was reportedly so unusual ittriggered a whistleblower complaint, said Sunday ahead of his departure for an event in Texas that he discussed with the Ukrainian leader “the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating the corruption already in the Ukraine.”
Trump reiterated this version of events to reporters once he arrived in Houston.
“He said, ‘I’m not going to give billions of dollars to Ukraine unless they remove this prosecutor.’ And they removed the prosecutor supposedly in one hour,” Trump claimed, referring to Biden. “And the prosecutor was prosecuting the company of the son and the son. He just shouldn’t have said that. Now, as far as my conversation, it was perfect. It was a perfect conversation.”
On Monday, he reiterated this claim.
“It was a perfect call. There was no quid pro quo, unlike Biden,” Trump said.
But the revelation of the whistleblower complaint from a member of the U.S. intelligence committee, first reported in The Washington Post, reportedly involving the call came after a monthslong effort by the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to get Ukraine to probe the Bidens — an effort aided by the State Department.
Both Trump and Giuliani have alleged that Biden used the prospect of U.S. financial support to pressure the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor in 2016, because the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was investigating the gas company Burisma, and allegedly, Hunter.
Shokin was widely believed to be soft on corruption, however, and the United States and other Western countries had called for his removal. The country’s Parliament ultimately voted to remove Shokin.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg News, citing documents and an interview with a former Ukrainian official, reported the Burisma investigation had been dormant for more than a year by the time Biden called for the crackdown on corruption. The then-Ukrainian prosecutor general told the news agency he found no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and his son. And PolitiFact reported it found no evidence to “support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son’s interests in mind.”