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Trump ordered Ukraine aid frozen ‘amid demand for Biden probe’

More than a dozen Democrats, including some in House leadership, have added their names to those calling for impeachment proceedings.

Donald Trump (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Donald Trump (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

By Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press

Donald Trump ordered his staff to freeze nearly 400 million dollars (£320 million) in aid to Ukraine a few days before a phone call in which he reportedly pressured the eastern European nation’s leader to investigate the family of political rival Joe Biden, it has emerged.

The president’s order was first reported by the Washington Post and was confirmed to the Associated Press by sources.

The revelation came as more Democrats move toward impeachment proceedings.

These allegations are stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent Group of seven Democrats

Late on Monday, an influential group of first-term Democrats who served in the military and national security before winning office said Mr Trump’s actions cut to the core of the country’s defences.

Their views, as centrist legislators in previously Republican-held districts where Mr Trump has been popular, hold sway with party leadership.

At issue is a summer phone call with Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskiy, in which Mr Trump is said to have pushed for investigations into Mr Biden. In the days before that call, the US leader ordered aid to Ukraine to be frozen.

Mr Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong and has denied that any requests for help in procuring damaging information about Mr Biden were tied to the aid freeze.

In remarks to reporters at the United Nations on Tuesday, he confirmed he held up the aid but said he did so to fight corruption and urge European nations to share in helping Ukraine.

“But very importantly, Germany, France, other countries should put up money and that’s been my complaint from the beginning,” he said.

Democrats, and some Republicans, urged the White House to be open about his actions, which are at the centre of a whistleblower complaint, but with no new information from the administration forthcoming, more than a dozen Democrats, including some in House leadership, added their names to those calling for impeachment proceedings.

The sudden rush of activity shows the extent to which Mr Trump’s call to the foreign leader, and his subsequent comments about the conversation, are raising further questions about whether he improperly used his office to pressure another country as a way of helping his own re-election prospects.

“These allegations are stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent,” wrote the seven first-term Democrats, who include a former navy pilot, soldiers, officers and intelligence analysts.

“We do not arrive at this conclusion lightly,” they wrote in a Washington Post column. The seven are representatives Gil Cisneros of California, Jason Crow of Colorado, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.

“These new allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect. We must preserve the checks and balances envisioned by the Founders and restore the trust of the American people in our government. And that is what we intend to do.”

Congress on Monday pressed for full disclosure of a whistleblower’s complaint about Mr Trump and pushed the White House to release a transcript of the call with the Ukraine president.

The president has acknowledged the phone call. On Monday, he said he did not want to give money to Ukraine if there were corruption issues.

“It’s very important to talk about corruption,” he told reporters. “If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is, is corrupt?”

Later he denied telling the Ukrainian president that his country would only get US aid if it investigated Mr Biden’s son. “I didn’t do it,” he said.

PA

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