The day after Congress held the first public impeachment hearings against him, Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Bossier City, Louisiana, where he appears to make a significant admission. Speaking at the Thursday rally about his allegations of “corruption” against former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter, Trump said the accusations “will become a major campaign issue,” according to Vox reporter Aaron Rupar, who covered the rally via Twitter.
In the impeachment inquiry, Trump is accused of attempting to extort the government of Ukraine into interfering with the 2020 election by announcing an investigation of Biden. The supposed investigation would be aimed at alleged “corruption” involving Hunter Biden, who held a seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm.
Trump has previously claimed, including in a Twitter post, that his push for the Biden probe was solely about “CORRUPTION” and “has NOTHING to do with politics or a political campaign against the Bidens.”
His assertion at the Thursday rally about the accusations becoming a “major campaign issue” appeared to directly contradict his earlier claim.
Republicans at Wednesday’s impeachment hearing also defended Trump by claiming that his effort to extract the investigation of Biden from Ukraine was motivated solely by the president’s supposed passion for fighting corruption, rather than by political considerations.
Most polls show Biden leading Trump by sizable margins, both nationally and in key states in the 2020 general election. At the Wednesday rally, Trump told his supporters that he hopes Biden wins the Democratic nomination.
Previously, when Trump was still maintaining that he was motivated only by the desire to combat “corruption,” he was asked by a reporter whether he had ever “asked foreign leaders for any corruption investigations that don’t involve your political opponent,” according to an ABC News report.
Trump could not recall any other such instances, saying only that he would “have to look.”
According to the impeachment inquiry, Trump is alleged to have withheld badly needed — and congressionally approved — military aid to Ukraine as a means of pressuring the country’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to announce the investigation into the Bidens.
At Wednesday’s impeachment hearing, acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, who was appointed by Trump, testified that an aide had overheard a phone call between Trump and U.S. European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland. In that call, Trump demanded to know whether Ukraine had made any progress toward announcing the “investigations.”
Taylor testified that he believed Trump was referring to the hoped-for investigation of Biden.