U.S. Senator Chris Murphy is calling for a congressional inquiry into alleged political interference from the Trump administration involving U.S. policy toward Ukraine.
During a press conference Monday that followed a formal letter to U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch last Friday, Murphy called for the committee to investigate whether President Donald Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani attempted to influence the 2020 election by placing pressure on the Ukrainian government to investigate the Ukrainian business dealings of Hunter Biden, the son of 2020 Democratic presidential contender and former Vice President Joe Biden.
The letter and press conference came after the disclosure last week of a whistleblower complaint filed with the inspector general of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence alleging that Trump had made promises while communicating with a foreign leader — reportedly Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Trump admitted over the weekend that he asked Zelensky during a July phone call to investigate the younger Biden’s work in Ukraine and implied Monday that U.S. military aid may have been on the table during that conversation.
Murphy denounced the president’s actions Monday and suggested that Congress take action on the whistleblower’s complaint and Trump’s admissions.
“This is unacceptable in a democracy,” Murphy said. “No president of the United States can use his office, can use the national security apparatus of this country to try to interfere in an election to try to destroy his political opponents. This cannot happen in this country, and if indeed true, Congress can’t allow it to stand.”
Murphy, who visited with Zelensky several weeks ago, said the new Ukranian president told him “he had no interest in interfering in a U.S. election.”
Murphy previously called for the committee to investigate Giuliani’s dealings with Ukraine in May after Giuliani told the New York Times he was planning to visit the country to push for investigations that could benefit Trump’s interests.
Trump Admits Communicating with Zelensky
Trump, for his part, has deflected suggestions that his communications with Zelensky were anything but routine.
“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory,” Trump told reporters at the White House Sunday. “It was largely corruption — all the corruption taking place. It was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine.”
During a visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City Monday, Trump again admitted to pressuring Ukraine to investigate the younger Biden and implied that his pressure was tied to providing the country with U.S. military aid.
“What we are doing is we want honesty and if we’re dealing with a country, we want honesty. I think with the new president, you’re going to see more honesty in the Ukraine and that’s what we’re looking for,” he told reporters Monday. “If we’re supporting a country, we want to make sure that country is honest. It’s very important to talk about corruption. If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?”
Trump later denied explicitly linking said military aid to Ukraine’s cooperation with investigating Biden.
Earlier this summer, the Trump administration stymied the release of $250 million in military aid to Ukraine that was meant to assist the country in its more than five-year war with Russia before allowing its release earlier this month. While Trump administration officials declined to specify the rationale for the delay and later release of the funds, some Democrats suggested it was tied to pressure from Trump and Giuliani on the Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden.
Democrats Call For Impeachment Proceedings
The latest developments involving Trump and his communications with Zelensky have led several Democrats, including most of Connecticut’s congressional delegation, to voice support for the possibility of impeachment proceedings.
U.S. Reps. Jim Himes, Rosa DeLauro, Joe Courtney, and John Larson all made statements Monday suggesting that Congress may be left with no other option than to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Himes has been the only member of Connecticut’s delegation to previously call for impeachment.
Himes, in an interview with CNN, said the developments “up the ante” on the potential for the House to “move into impeachment mode.”
“An impeachment inquiry may be the only recourse Congress has if the President is enlisting foreign assistance in the 2020 election,” DeLauro said. “Congress must meet this pivotal moment in our nation’s history with decisive action.”
Larson added that “If the Director refuses to comply at Thursday’s hearing, the Trump Administration has left Congress with no alternative but for the House to begin impeachment proceedings, which I will support.”
Murphy told reporters at Monday’s press conference that while he has previously been reluctant to recommend impeachment proceedings to the House, he was re-thinking his position in light of the new allegations.
“I’m going to give some serious thought to my position on this matter in the coming days,” he said. “Because I don’t know how I live in a country, I help lead a country that allows a president of the United States to openly admit to this kind of corruption and get away with it.”