white house video screengrab
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Wednesday (white house video screengrab)

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy has issued a stern rebuke to President Donald Trump after the president accused Murphy during a press conference Wednesday of threatening Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit to Ukraine earlier this month.

“I stand by my belief that the President of the United States should never be allowed to use the Oval Office for personal gain, especially when it includes leveraging away the international credibility of the United States,” Murphy said in a statement. “In the meeting Republican Senator Ron Johnson and I had with President Zelensky three weeks ago, I made it clear to him that Ukraine should not become involved in the 2020 election and that his government should communicate with the State Department, not the president’s campaign.”

Trump, who was in New York City for meetings at the United Nations, used the press conference to address, among other things, the recent events that yesterday led to the opening of an impeachment inquiry by the U.S. House of Representatives into his own communications with Zelensky this past July. In particular, he picked on Murphy, who has existing relationships with Ukraine and yesterday voiced his support for impeachment proceedings against Trump.

“Chris Murphy — who I’ve been dealing with on guns — you know, so nice, he’s always, ‘Oh, we want to work it out, we want to work it out,’” Trump said. “But they’re too busy wasting their time on the witch hunt. Senator Chris Murphy literally threatened the president of Ukraine that if he doesn’t do things right that they won’t have Democrat support in Congress.”

Murphy discussed his meeting with Zelensky at length during a press conference Monday that followed a formal letter last week to U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, requesting that the committee investigate whether Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani attempted to influence the 2020 election by placing pressure on the Ukrainian government to investigate the activities of Hunter Biden, the son of 2020 Democratic presidential contender and former Vice President Joe Biden.

“I raised with (Zelensky) specifically Rudy Giuliani’s overtures to him and his team,” said Murphy. “ … I cautioned him that by getting involved in the 2020 election, he was going to potentially destroy the bipartisan nature of the U.S.-Ukrainian relationship.”


Murphy said that during the course of the hour-long meeting, which was attended by Johnson and others, Zelensky told him he not only had no interest in getting involved in the 2020 election, but that he also understood the damage it would do to U.S.-Ukrainian relations.

Murphy said he’d traveled to Ukraine with the intent of learning more about Zelensky’s concerns about pressure the Trump administration was placing on him to commence an investigation into the Biden family’s activities in the country.

In recent days, Trump has admitted to pressuring Zelensky to investigate the Biden family, but has claimed the conversation was about addressing corruption versus asking Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 presidential election.