Donald Trump is reportedly undergoing a major shift regarding his controversial phone call with Ukraine, privately moving into a claim that Energy Secretary Rick Perry forced him into making the call that has now sparked an impeachment inquiry.
During the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump allegedly pressured the Ukrainian leader into digging up dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. That call is a chief aspect of a whistleblower complaint about Trump's conduct toward Ukraine, which also included withholding military aid that was reportedly meant to put more pressure on the country to investigate the Bidens.
As Axios reported, Trump is now privately claiming that the call was never his idea, pinning it instead on Perry. During a conference call with Republican House members on Friday, Trump reportedly said he never wanted to talk to Zelensky in the first place but was convinced to do it by Perry.
"Not a lot of people know this but, I didn't even want to make the call," Trump reportedly told lawmakers in a quote paraphrased by a person on the call to Axios. "The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to. Something about an LNG [liquified natural gas] plan."
As the report noted, the remark shows that Trump is now trying to distance himself with a call that could lead to his impeachment. Democrats in Congress have moved quickly to open an impeachment inquiry after the whistleblower complaint was made public.
Perry, who has had a relatively quiet tenure as energy secretary in a Trump administration otherwise embroiled in regular controversy, was entangled in the impeachment inquiry even before the reports that the president may be trying to pin the Ukraine call on him. As Axios noted, Democrats have asked for information about Perry's visit to Ukraine for Zelensky's inauguration earlier this year, and also want to know more about his private conversations with Ukrainian leaders.Donald Trump could face new challenges regarding his pressure on Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. As The New York Times reported, a second whistleblower is considering coming forward with more direct information about the actions related to Ukraine. Trump and other Republicans have criticized the initial whistleblower for having only secondhand knowledge of some of the events mentioned in the complaint, but the new informant has firsthand knowledge of the president's actions and could testify to them before Congress in the impeachment inquiry, the report noted.