President Donald Trump Wednesday explicitly called out Sen. Chris Murphy over his recent visit to Ukraine, accusing Murphy of threatening that country’s president. Murphy has responded, accusing Trump of “leveraging away the international credibility of the United States.”
Trump was speaking during a press conference called to discuss, among other things, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement of an impeachment inquiry.
The president defended his actions during a controversial July phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. According to a rough transcript of the call released Wednesday, he did request Zelensky open an inquiry into the conduct of Hunter Biden, the son of one of his potential rivals in the 2020 presidential race, Joe Biden.
Murphy had talks with Zelensky in Kiev earlier this month where the two discussed Trump’s contacts and also the temporary suspension of military aid to Ukraine.
"Chris Murphy — who I’ve been dealing with on guns — you know, so nice,” said Trump during the press conference. “He’s always, ‘Oh, no, we want to work it out. We want to work it out.’ But they’re too busy wasting their time on the witch hunt. So, Senator Chris Murphy literally threatened the president of Ukraine that, if he doesn’t do things right, they won’t have Democrat support in Congress.”
Murphy issued a statement late Wednesday responding to that allegation.
"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,” he said. “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. I still believe this to be true.”
Murphy also addressed his dealings with the White House over a possible background checks bill. He’s been one of the lead Democrats negotiating on gun control, most recently since mass shootings this summer in El Paso and Dayton.
"I also spoke last night to a top official at the White House who asked me to stay at the table on background checks negotiations. I agreed, and I remain willing to work with the White House on getting a deal done to save American lives," he said.
Murphy, who called for impeachment for the first time early Tuesday, just hours before Pelosi’s announcement, has previously discussed his visit to Ukraine in some detail.
“I have been long involved in U.S.-Ukraine relations, in large part because we have a strong Ukrainian-American population here in Connecticut,” he said during a press conference in Hartford on Monday. “I heard from [Zelensky] directly, his concern about why the aid was being cut off to Ukraine. The president also told me he had no interest in interfering in a U.S. election.”
Murphy said in fact he doesn’t think it’s important whether there was an explicit threat that the U.S. would cut off security aid unless Ukraine agreed to investigate the Biden family.
“There is an implicit threat in every single demand that a United States president makes of a foreign power, especially a country like Ukraine that is so dependent on the United States,” Murphy said.