NatSec Staff Raised 'Alarm Bells' About Trump Ukraine Call
NatSec Staff Raised 'Alarm Bells' About Trump Ukraine Call
Ukraine's president says 'no blackmail' in Trump call
12 October, 2019, 04:59
As some 300 journalists took turns at Zelenskiy's table, no question was off limits: his awkward phone call with Donald Trump, his ties to oligarchs, his troubled peace plan for eastern Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday that there was "no blackmail" involved in the call he had with Trump. "And after our meeting America unblocked the aid".
Trump has said the United States has an "absolute right" to ask foreign leaders to investigate corruption cases, though no one has produced evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the former US vice president or his son.
"When people were listening to this in real time, there were significant concerns about what was going on - alarm bells were kind of ringing", said one person familiar with the sequence of events inside the White House, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
He went on to say the call "wasn't linked to weapons or the story with Burisma", the company that employed Hunter. "When I did find out, I raised it with [U.S. Vice-President Mike] Pence at a meeting in Warsaw", Mr. Zelensky said on Thursday.
Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Pence met in the Polish capital on September 1.
But the press conference repeatedly circled back to Ukraine's role in the impeachment inquiry in the United States - Mr Zelenskiy at one point lowered his head in mock exasperation and grinned at yet another question on the issue.
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Zelenskiy appears to be playing to both USA political camps to ensure Ukraine has continued support no matter who wins the presidential election next year.
He's treading carefully to ensure continued support from the U.S. while trying to make peace with powerful neighbor Russian Federation.
Zelensky told reporters at the United Nations in September that the only person that can pressure him is his son. But the pullback, originally scheduled for 7 October, has not happened yet because Ukraine accused the separatists of shelling its positions and said it would only withdraw after a straight week of full ceasefire observance.
Russian Federation has said the pullback needs to take place before a summit scheduled for this month between Putin, Zelenskiy, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I'm not ready to lose the lives of more people", he said.
The July call embarrassed the 41-year-old president because it showed him as eager to please Trump and critical of European partners whose support he needs to strengthen Ukraine's economy and to end the conflict with Russian Federation.
The nature and timing of the previously undisclosed discussions with National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg indicate that officials were delivering warnings through official White House channels earlier than previously understood - including before the call that precipitated a whistleblower complaint and the impeachment inquiry of the president. Mr Zelensky said he had never met them.
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