Calling it the “most serious moment of the Trump administration to date,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said the president has openly admitted to having asked a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 elections. And while he has stayed silent on the question to date, he said the revelations of the last few days over contacts between the Trump administration at the Ukrainian government may lead him to change his mind on whether House Democrats should begin impeachment hearings.
A whistleblower complaint from a member of the intelligence community is reported to allege that President Donald Trump personally asked the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky eight times to open an investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Hunter Biden was at one time on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
In conversations with reporters Sunday, Trump appeared to confirm that he had mentioned the Biden family in the July call with Zelensky. He said focused on corruption and on "the fact that we don't want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, [contributing to] the corruption already in Ukraine."
But the president later appeared to walk back those remarks, saying merely that he “would have the right” to mention Biden’s name.
“This is unacceptable in a democracy,” Murphy said in a press conference Monday in Hartford. “If this is indeed true, Congress cannot allow this to stand. I thought it was extraordinary that the president admitted to the country that he had engaged in a fundamental corruption of his office.”
Murphy, who sits on the Senate foreign relations committee, traveled to Ukraine in late August to meet with Zelensky, who raised with him a delay in releasing expected aid from the U.S. to help Ukraine with military security.
“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. “I heard from [President 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.
He also compared the Ukraine revelations to the lengthy investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“Had the Mueller investigation uncovered a phone call between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in which Donald Trump asked Vladimir Putin eight different times to interfere in the 2016 election, that would be the smoking gun that Republicans and Democrats had been waiting for,” he said.
He renewed his call, first made last week, for the whistleblower complaint to be sent to Congress, saying the law commands such complaints be passed to the legislative branch.
Murphy has so far not weighed in on the question of whether the House should begin impeachment hearings against the president. He now said he will take a few days to consider whether to make that recommendation.
“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,” Murphy said.