Politics & Government

Trump says McConnell assured him the Ukraine call was ‘perfect’

President Donald Trump says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told him he sees no problem with the phone call to the Ukraine president that is the center of an impeachment inquiry.

Trump told reporters Thursday that he’s spoken with McConnell and that the Kentucky Republican considers Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “the most innocent phone call” that he’s read.

The call has prompted the inquiry into whether Trump pressured a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. House committee members were meeting privately Thursday in a lengthy session to question former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, who resigned his post last week.

Trump spoke to reporters outside the White House. “I mean, give me a break,” he said, and went on to accuse House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, of twisting his words in the call with Zelensky.

“Anybody that reads it says the same thing,” Trump said. “And the only people that don’t understand it is when they look at the false, fabricated, fraudulent statement made by Shifty Schiff.”

McConnell’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump’s request on the call for Ukraine to look into 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden are at the center of an intelligence community whistleblower complaint that sparked House Democrats last week to launch an impeachment probe.

McConnell said last week that it was “laughable” that the contents of the call supplied by the White House came “anywhere close to an impeachable offense.”

McConnell said in a statement to Politico that he had read a summary of the call and that “if this is the ‘launching point’ for House Democrats’ impeachment process, they’ve already overplayed their hand. It’s clear there is no quid pro quo that the Democrats were desperately praying for.”

Trump’s remarks on McConnell Thursday came as he called on China to probe Biden, telling reporters he hadn’t directly asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, but that said it’s “certainly something we could start thinking about.”

McConnell has accused Democrats of rushing to judgment on impeachment and politicizing the controversy, but told CNBC earlier this week that he would have “no choice” but to take up any House-approved impeachment articles.

“How long you’re on it is a whole different matter,” he added.

McConnell has accused Democrats of looking to impeach Trump “since practically the moment that Secretary Clinton lost the election” and insisted that Senate Intelligence Committee is prepared to investigate the matter.

“Senate Republicans support the established proper procedures for considering this whistle blower report,” McConnell said last week on the Senate floor. “And in the meantime, while our friends across the Capitol rush to judgment and dive deeper into their nearly three-year-old impeachment addiction, we’ll stay focused on the American people’s business.”

Lesley Clark works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, covering all things Kentucky for McClatchy’s Lexington Herald-Leader. A former reporter for McClatchy’s Miami Herald, she also spent several years covering the White House.