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Sunday
Sep222019

Trump heads to UN amid tensions with Iran, questions over call with Ukrainian leader

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(NEW YORK) --  President Donald Trump will join leaders from around the world as they converge in New York City this week for the United Nations General Assembly, an annual high-profile diplomatic gathering.

"I think for President Trump at the U.N., the hope is the third time is the charm," said Jon Alterman, the director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"The first time President Trump went up to the U.N. in 2017, other leaders were so uncertain of what he would want to do that a lot of them stayed away," Alterman said. "The second UNGA, as you remember, is when the president was laughed at by the General Assembly when he talked about the accomplishments of his administration."

But with his third visit to the gathering, the president's unconventional style and norm-defying approach to U.S. foreign policy -- prioritizing an "America First" vision over multilateral cooperation -- is now well established on the global stage.

The most anticipated meeting on Trump's schedule this week is a planned bilateral meeting with the president of Ukraine. The meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, comes amid questions of a whistleblower's complaint over a phone call the president had with a foreign leader involving Ukraine.

A senior administration official, asked what is on the agenda for the meeting, said the president plans to focus on congratulating President Volodymyr Zelensky on his election victory and to offer praise for his anti-corruption reform efforts.

The president is also slated to meet one-on-one with the leaders of Pakistan, Poland, New Zealand, Singapore, Egypt, South Korea, UK, India, Iraq, Japan and El Salvador.

One world leader the president is likely not to encounter: Iran's President Hassan Rhouhani.

While the possibility of such a meeting has been floated in recent weeks -- and Trump has expressed openness to the possibility -- Iran has rejected the idea.

"Nothing is ever off the table completely, but I have no intention of meeting with Iran," Trump said Sunday as he left the White House. "But I'm a flexible person. We are meeting with a lot of leaders. We have about 15 meetings set up. But Iran is not one of them."

A senior State Department official told ABC News that during the General Assembly, the Trump administration intends to bring the focus on Iran after blaming it for the massive attack. That includes a social media campaign to "troll" Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif by "tracking where Zarif and Rouhani are going and ... countering their lies and propaganda that they're spewing," the official said.

But even without direct engagement with Iran, Alterman says this week's gathering provides an opening -- and a test -- for Trump to organize a united front in the wake of an attack on a Saudi oil facility that the U.S. has blamed on Iran.

"The Iranians, it seems to me, have laid a trap. They've challenged a president with unilateral instincts to double down on them and isolate the United States from the world," Alterman said. "Iran is a hard problem, but frankly it's precisely the kind of problem that the United Nations was created to address. The president has an opportunity, especially in his bilateral meetings next week, to begin addressing them.

 In addition to the president's bilateral agenda, one of the main events of his three days at the U.N. will be his address the General Assembly on Tuesday morning. The White House has declined to provide a preview of the president's remarks.

That evening, the president and first lady will host a diplomatic reception for visiting world leaders.

Trump will also host a meeting Monday morning that the White House is billing is a global call to protect religious freedom and raise concerns about what a senior administration official said is an increase in the targeting of religious communities and houses of worship over the last decade.

The timing of that meeting has drawn criticism, however, because it overlaps with another meeting on the topic of the environment. A senior administration official declined to comment about the scheduling conflict except to say that the administration is putting the focus on the president's religious freedom meeting.

The president will conclude his visit to the U.N. General Assembly with a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Sep222019

Sam Donaldson, George Will remember Cokie Roberts on ABC's 'This Week'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In a special tribute to legendary ABC News and NPR journalist Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson and George Will shared their memories with "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

"She tamed us, and she changed the business," Donaldson said on Sunday, noting Roberts' role in mentoring and promoting female journalists.



"Cokie was from another Washington," Will said. "Washington before tribalism swallowed civility, Washington before constant hysteria."

He added, "It was possible before, and it shall come again, this kind of person who will typify Washington -- not the Washington with a snarl on its face -- but Washington with her incandescent smile."

Donaldson mentioned an interview in 1989 between the two of them and Sen. John Tower, R-Texas. Donaldson struggled to define the word "womanizer," after being challenged by Tower. Roberts spoke up during the interview and said, "Well, I think most women know it when they see it, senator."

The moment, Donaldson said, was one of many where, "she used a stiletto, not a hammer, and did it."

The Powerhouse Roundtable, where each panelist was a friend or colleague of Roberts, also shared their memories of the legendary journalist.

"Not only did she pull that ladder down for young women like myself, but she kept it down," said Fox News contributor and former Democratic National Committee chairperson Donna Brazile, who first met Roberts as a 21-year-old Capitol Hill intern. "Cokie constantly pushed us to be our better selves."

ABC News Correspondent Karen Travers, who first worked with Roberts as an intern in college, recalled how Roberts supported her and her family while her newborn twins were in the newborn intensive care unit.

"She was so kind and gracious and looked out for me," Travers said.

NPR Political Correspondent Mara Liasson said that she became an NPR reporter because of Roberts, saying "I got to work under her, learn how to do it. ... She gave me an amazing education."

Roberts, born Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs, died Tuesday due to complications from breast cancer. She was 75.

Throughout her decades-long career, Roberts won numerous awards, including three Emmys. She joined ABC News in 1988, and anchored "This Week" with Donaldson from 1996 to 2002. She was named a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress in 2008. Roberts also wrote eight books focused on the role of women in American history and politics.

ABC News President James Goldston called her a "true pioneer for women in journalism."

On "This Week" Sunday, Donaldson spoke to that influence.

"She helped bring women, as you know, and I've just heard your panelists say that, into full power," he said, referring to the prior roundtable conversation. "Not just full power, but we're now the endangered gender."

Raddatz interrupted, and said, "I think you got nothing to worry about there, Sam. I think Cokie would say that as well."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Sep222019

‘Coherent strategy’ with allies needed on Iran: Former Defense Secretary Mattis

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Iran is "continuing to do what they've done for nearly four decades now," former Defense Secretary James Mattis told ABC's "This Week," and the Trump administration needs to "build trust that we have a coherent strategy" on Iran following the country's alleged Sept. 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities.

"They want to look like the leader and they're trying to craft a foreign policy that pushes others around. And this is the same thing they've been doing for many, many years," Mattis told ABC's "This Week" Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz Sunday.

"This is the way (Iran's) regime conducts its policy … they (attacked) our embassies, they've attacked other people's diplomats, they've murdered the former prime minister of Lebanon. This is their modus operandi," he added.

Reiterating his calls for multilateralism, Mattis said on Sunday, "We need our allies, our partners and -- when you need them -- you have to build trust that we have a coherent strategy … this is a situation whose best possible outcome will come from a coalition of nations that want a stable the Middle East, and that has to be our goal to stabilize this situation as soon as possible."

Mattis resigned from the administration last December, writing in a letter to President Donald Trump that he should have a defense secretary "whose views are better aligned" with his own.

During his time in office, Mattis often found himself at odds with Trump on policy, including on the subject of Iran. Against the former defense secretary's recommendations, the president withdrew the United States from the multilateral Iranian nuclear agreement in 2018.


Since then, the U.S. has significantly increased economic sanctions on Iran. Meanwhile, the country has also increased its nuclear capabilities, announcing in July that it surpassed the internationally agreed upon limit on its stockpiles of weapon-grade uranium.

The president's administration has blamed Iran for the attack on the Saudi oil installation, with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling the raid an "act of war."

In an earlier interview with Raddatz, Pompeo said, "We do want a peaceful resolution to this. That is our objective."

He added, "But make no mistake about it, if we are unsuccessful in that, and Iran continues to strike out in this way, I am confident that President Donald Trump will make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives."

Speaking to CNN earlier this week, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif denied that Iran was behind the Saudi attack, and said a retaliatory strike on Iran by the U.S. or Saudi Arabia would result in "all-out war."

Since the attacks, Trump has escalated pressure on Iran, announcing additional sanctions on the country. On Friday, the Pentagon also approved the deployment of additional U.S. troops and missile defense equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


Promoting his new book "Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead," Mattis has been hesitant in critiquing his former boss, telling The Atlantic in September, "There is a period in which I owe my silence. It's not eternal. It's not going to be forever."

Speaking to Raddatz on Sunday, Mattis said, "The most important thing that you have to have to be a good leader, is you have to have the ability to build trust, and that starts with listening."

The former defense secretary has used the promotion of his book to criticize the political division in the country.

Asked what he meant in his book writing about "internal divisiveness," Mattis told Raddatz, "A democracy cannot work without compromise. And we're going to have to learn to listen to one another, really understand, learn from one another, accept the fact that, once in a while, the people we disagree with might actually be right."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Sep222019

'We do want a peaceful resolution to this': Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Iran 

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As tensions continued between the United States and Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “We do want a peaceful resolution to this. That is our objective.”

In his interview with ABC's "This Week" Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz, he added, “But make no mistake about it, if we are unsuccessful in that, and Iran continues to strike out in this way, I am confident that President Donald Trump will make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives.”

Pompeo called an attack on a Saudi oil facility last weekend an "act of war," when speaking to reporters after landing in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

While Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack, the secretary of state blamed it on Iran in a tweet shortly after it happened. He also called the Houthi claim false when speaking to reporters this week.

 


"I don't think this type of posturing helps," Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said when asked about the deployment in a clip released ahead of an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Trump announced sanctions on Iran's national bank on Friday, calling them "the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country."

The Saudi government said Iran "sponsored" the attack during a news conference on Wednesday. Iran has denied responsibility for the attack.

When he last appeared on "This Week" in September, Pompeo said that the U.S. wants to negotiate.

"We don't want violence, we don't want war with Iran," he said.

 

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Sep212019

Cory Booker needs $1.7M before October to stay in race, campaign says

adamkaz/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The next 10 days will decide whether Sen. Cory Booker's campaign for president continues.

In a new internal memo, which was leaked and posted on Medium Saturday, Booker's campaign manager Addisu Demissie said Booker needs to raise $1.7 million by Sept. 30 to be in a position to continue running for president. If not, Booker may not meet the "increase in the DNC's debate-qualifying thresholds, which would require significant funds to meet."

The Democratic National Committee has not announced the guidelines for its fifth debate, which is in November.

During a press call Saturday morning, Demissie made clear if Booker doesn't raise $1.7 in the next 10 days, he will drop out.

"We got in this race to win it," Demissie said. "We're not running for second place, and this is not an attention-getting effort for Cory Booker."

At this stage, Booker's campaign said it is starting to fall behind leading Democratic presidential contenders.

"Other campaigns have, in recent weeks, surpassed us in scale and begun spending on paid persuasion efforts online and on television," Demissie said in the memo. With that in mind, "it is probable there are only four campaigns in this race with the money necessary to build and sustain the national organization needed to win the nomination."

Booker only polled at 1% in the ABC News September poll. In that same poll, among 480 Democratic primary voters, former Vice President Joe Biden polled at 27%, Sen. Bernie Sanders at 19 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 17% and Sen. Kamala Harris at 7%.

Booker's campaign emailed ABC News the Medium link Saturday.

Qualifying for the upcoming October Democratic debate isn't enough; Booker needs money to come in quickly, Demissie said. "Without a fundraising surge to close out this quarter, we do not see a legitimate long-term path forward," he wrote.

Booker's campaign manager said the plea for fundraising $1.7 million isn't a stunt to get more press. "This is a real, unvarnished look under the hood of our operation at a level of transparency unprecedented in modern presidential campaigns," Demissie wrote.

Often presidential campaigns send catastrophic emails in an attempt to boost last-minute fundraising dollars. However, Booker's campaign manager stressed on Saturday that this is far from a ploy. "It's about the trajectory of our fundraising and our ability to use money now, to build to continue to build the organization, we need to win," Demissie said. Without the fundraising at the end of the quarter, "we do not see a legitimate long term path to ultimately win a nomination," he said frankly.

During the second fundraising quarter of this year, between April and June, the Booker campaign raised $4.5 million and spent $5.3 million, trailing far behind top-tier candidates but ahead of some of the other candidates including Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke.

The third fundraising quarter ends in 10 days.

Booker, speaking to reporters following an appearance at an LGBTQ presidential forum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, talked about the importance of the Hawkeye State. He said his campaign is putting "a lot of our chips on this state and I plan on winning it. And right now I think we have the best team we're leading endorsements in the state. We're showing all signs and the metrics that we can win this state."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Sep212019

Elizabeth Warren highlights violence against transgender women of color, reads names of those killed this year

BalkansCat/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-MA., was the penultimate speaker at Friday night’s forum focused on LGBTQ issues, and took the stage with a powerful opening statement.

“If elected President, what should LGBTQ Americans expect from the first 100 days in office?” moderator Lyz Lenz asked Warren.

“I’m not going to tell you - I’m going to show you,” Warren said, taking out a small slip of pink paper.

“Dana Martin, Jazzaline Ware, Ashanti Carmon, Claire Legato, Muhlaysia Booker,” Warren read. Her voice began to shake.

“Michelle ‘Tamika’ Washington, Paris Cameron, Chanel Lindsey, Chanel Scurlock, Zoe Spears, Brooklyn Lindsey, Denali, Berries Stuckey, Kiki Fantroy, Pebbles LaDime ‘Dime’ Doe, Tracy Single, Bailey Reeves, Bee Love Slater, Ja’leyah-Jamar.”

She read their names, carefully pronouncing each of the 18 transgender women of color who have been killed so far this year.

“It is time for a President of the United States of America to say their names,” Warren said.

Warren’s acknowledgment of those 18 women called attention to an LGBTQ community concern that has yet to see much spotlight on the 2020 stage, but she and several of her fellow candidates have tried to bring the issue to the fore.

Saying their names out loud served as a larger call for attention and action to an issue that largely goes underreported.

The crowd met her words with a standing ovation.

The transgender community faces a staggering rate of discrimination, poverty and homelessness. Trans women of color particularly are at steep risk of marginalization, violence and erasure.

At least 18 transgender people have been killed this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The group tracked 29 killings in 2018, the most it ever recorded in a year.

Since 2013, HRC has tracked at least 145 transgender deaths due to violence, with most victims being black transgender women. But the organization said the violence is hard to track due to misgendering -- incorrectly applying gender labels -- and transphobia.

In June Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke invoked the names of two trans women of color killed in his home state of Texas. He named them while leading a Pride run in New York City, just as he unveiled his proposal for achieving equality for LGBTQ Americans.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has also called attention to the issue, speaking out about the violence against, and the obstacles faced by trans women of color. Friday night at the GLAAD-hosted forum, he also spoke about his experiences facing discrimination as a gay man. Former Vice President Joe Biden has also addressed the five African American transgender women who had at that time already been killed in 2019, and Senator Cory Booker, D-NJ., also spoke clearly about the need for trans-specific protections.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Sep212019

North Carolina school officials cancel football game after cheerleaders' Trump 2020 banner

WSOC(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- A week after authorities placed a North Carolina high school cheerleading squad on probation for displaying a pro-Trump banner before a football game, school officials abruptly canceled the school's Friday night game due to safety concerns.

On Monday, the cheerleading team at North Stanly High School, about 50 miles east of Charlotte, was put on probation by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association after an investigation determined that the squad had violated school policy by posing with a "Trump 2020: Make America Great Again" banner prior to a game on Aug. 30, according to Asheville ABC affiliate WLOS.

A photo of the squad with the banner had appeared on Facebook after the game.

"We are currently investigating this matter," school officials said in a statement released the day after the photo appeared. "Stanly County Schools respects the rights of its students, staff, and visitors to express their opinions in a respectful manner on their own time; however, Stanly County Board of Education policy prohibits the display or distribution of political advertisements on campus or at school events."

On Friday, Stanly County Schools announced they were suddenly canceling that night's football game over concerns about students' safety.

"SCS has been notified of additional information that could compromise safety measures in place for sporting events," officials posted on Twitter. "Upon receiving information, the NSHS football game scheduled for 9/20/19 is canceled. Safety is our first concern."

Hundreds of people on a Facebook page supporting the cheerleaders said they would be coming to Friday’s game to wave American flags in support of the cheerleaders, reported Charlotte ABC affiliate WSOC.

A Twitter post made Friday afternoon after the game was called off said that a rally to support the cheerleaders was "still happening" across from the school, even though the game was canceled.

Reaction to the school's decision was mixed.

U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord) sent a letter in support of the cheerleaders, reading in part, “at the end of the day, these students have a First Amendment right to free speech, and the NCHSAA should immediately reconsider this unfair punishment."

But others disagreed.

“I don’t think it’s right,” one local resident told WSOC. “You can’t have a flag at the game. They called parents and said not to bring flags.”

A source told WSOC said that the canceled game was being rescheduled for Saturday morning, the station reported.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep202019

Inside President Donald Trump's push for Ukraine probe of Democratic rival

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- When Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, endeavored in early 2019 to have former Vice President Joe Biden investigated in Ukraine, one of his points of contact was the country's former prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, whose ouster in March of 2016 -- and Biden's involvement in it -- has become the subject of controversy.

During an appearance on CNN Thursday night, Giuliani said "of course" he asked the Ukrainians to investigate Biden, before backtracking.

"I didn't ask them to look into Joe Biden," Giuliani said. "I asked them to look into the allegations that related to my client, which tangentially involved Joe Biden in a massive bribery scheme."

The "bribery scheme" Giuliani has accused Biden of dates back to 2014, when the then-vice president led the Obama administration's efforts to root out corruption in Kiev in the wake of the Ukrainian revolution. As part of his efforts, Biden called for the dismissal of Shokin, who had ostensibly been leading a probe into Burisma, an oil company that had recently added the president's son, Hunter Biden, to its board of directors.

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that President Donald Trump had pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, about eight times, to work with Giuliani to investigate Biden. In response, the Biden campaign called on the president to release a transcript of the call "so that the American people can judge for themselves."

"If these reports are true," Biden said in that statement, "then there is truly no bottom to President Trump's willingness to abuse his power and abase our country. This behavior is particularly abhorrent because it exploits the foreign policy of our country and undermines our national security for political purposes.

"It means that he used the power and resources of the United States to pressure a sovereign nation -- a partner that is still under direct assault from Russia -- pushing Ukraine to subvert the rule of law in the express hope of extracting a political favor."

In an interview with ABC News in May of 2019, Shokin, the former prosecutor, suggested that the then-vice president sought his dismissal as part of an effort to protect his son and the company for which he worked.

"Biden was acting not like a U.S. vice president, but as an individual," Shokin told ABC News, "like the individual interested in having me removed -- having me gone so that I did not interfere in the Burisma investigation."

The assertion that Biden acted to help his son has been undercut by widespread criticism of Shokin from several high-profile international leaders who said Biden's recommendation was well justified.

A Biden campaign spokesman rejected the premise of Shokin's allegation, saying Biden had "acted at all times in a manner consistent with well-established executive branch ethics standards."

Regardless, Shokin and Giuliani connected in 2019. The two spoke only once, via Skype, according to Shokin. The bulk of their conversation focused on an issue Shokin had with his visa application to visit the U.S., but he conceded that Biden's name was mentioned -- though he was unsure by whom.

Shokin insisted Giuliani did not attempt to "dig up dirt on Joe Biden" and scoffed when pressed repeatedly about whether his interaction with Giuliani about Biden constituted election meddling, denying it out of hand.

"The thing is that I am not a politician," Shokin said, "and for me to give a political assessment of some actions is very difficult."

Daria Kaleniuk, a Ukrainian anti-corruption advocate, perceived Shokin's relationship with Giuliani in a different light, regardless of Shokin's insistence.

"[Giuliani] is a private lawyer, private attorney of President Trump, and I think what he is doing actually is very risky for relationships between Ukraine and between the United States," Kaleniuk said. "I don't want my country to be used as a political football."

Giuliani's overtures to Ukrainian officials has come under renewed attention as a result of a mysterious whistleblower complaint surrounding the president's conduct during a phone call regarding Ukraine.

On Friday, Trump told reporters that "there was nothing said wrong" during a July of 2019 phone conversation with Zelensky and accused the whistleblower on Twitter of being "highly partisan."

While details of the call remain unclear, a Ukrainian readout of the conversation cited a discussion about "investigations into corruption cases that have hampered interaction between Ukraine and the U.S.A."

In the Oval Office on Friday, Trump declined to say whether he brought Biden up during his phone call with Zelensky.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep202019

Trump administration demands UNC, Duke revise joint Middle East studies program

akrassel/iStock(WASHINGTON) --  The Department of Education has ordered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University to remodel their joint Middle East studies program, alleging that it inappropriately uses federal grants to advance "ideological priorities" and that the curriculum does not spend enough time highlighting "positive" imagery of Christianity and Judaism.

An Aug. 29 letter from the Education Department demanded that the universities revise the curriculum of the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies by Sept. 22 or risk losing federal funding.

"It seems clear foreign language instruction and area studies advancing the security and economic stability of the United States have taken 'a back seat' to other priorities at the Duke-UNC CMES," the letter said.

In a statement to ABC News, a UNC-Chapel Hill spokesperson said: "The Consortium deeply values its partnership with the Department of Education and has always been strongly committed to complying with the purposes and requirements of the Title VI program. In keeping with the spirit of this partnership, the Consortium is committed to working with the Department to provide more information about its programs."

A spokesperson from Duke University declined to comment directly and referred ABC News back to UNC-Chapel Hill.

The Education Department was asked in April to look into the universities' joint program by Republican North Carolina Rep. George Holding, who claimed he'd seen "reports of severe anti-Israeli bias and anti-Semitic rhetoric at a taxpayer-funded conference."

In a letter responding to Holding in June, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she was "troubled" by Holdings' concerns and has directed the Office of Postsecondary Education to "examine the use of funds under this program."

"The Department of Education's findings paint a deeply troubling picture," Holding tweeted Friday. "The Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies' use of federal taxpayer funds to promote a biased, ideologically driven agenda is irresponsible and immoral."

The Education Department said in the letter the program places "a considerable emphasis" on the "understanding the positive aspects of Islam, while there is an absolute absence of any similar focus on the positive aspects of Christianity, Judaism or any other religion or belief system in the Middle East."

The universities have been instructed to provide a "revised schedule of activities" for the next year and to explain how each offering promotes foreign language learning and advances national security interest.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep202019

Trump denies knowing whistleblower's identity, calls controversy 'political hack job'

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Friday denied knowing the identity of a whistleblower who filed a formal complaint about a call the president had earlier this summer with a foreign leader, but attacked the person as "partisan" and called the unfolding controversy "just another political hack job."

"I do not know the identity of the whistleblower," Trump said during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the Oval Office Friday morning. "I've had conversations with many leaders. They're always appropriate. Always appropriate. At the highest level they are always appropriate."

Asked by a reporter if the call in question was one he had July 25 with the president of Ukraine, Trump claimed he didn't know but he then characterized that conversation as "beautiful."

The call the whistleblower has complained about involved Ukraine, multiple sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

Trump did not name Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in several tweets earlier Friday taking issue with news reports about a call he said he had with "a certain leader," saying "there was nothing said wrong, it was pitch perfect!".

"It's a ridiculous story. It's a partisan whistleblower," he said. "And anything I do, I fight for this country. I fight so strongly for this country. It's just another political hack job."

Trump was asked whether the discussion was about former Vice President Joe Biden, the current front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary. The president said "it doesn't matter what I discussed," but later suggested that someone should look into Biden.

"It doesn't matter what I discuss, but I will say this: Somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement, because it was disgraceful where he talked about billions of dollars that he's not giving to a certain country unless a certain prosecutor is taken off the case," Trump asserted. "So somebody ought to look into that. And you wouldn't, because he's a Democrat. And the fake news doesn't look into things like that. It's a disgrace."

According to a readout released from the White House, Trump spoke with Zelensky on July 25 "to congratulate him on his recent election."

A more extensive readout from the Ukrainian president's office, however, noted that the two also spoke about "investigations into corruption cases that have hampered interaction between Ukraine and the U.S.A."

The president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has publicly and privately urged in recent months for Ukrainian officials to investigate ties between Biden's diplomatic efforts in the country and any connections between his son's business ventures.

Leaving a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, Biden blasted Trump.

“Not one single credible outlet has given any credibility to his assertions, not one single one," Biden said. "So, I have no comment except the president should start to be president."

In his tweets Friday morning, Trump attacked the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, who's demanding details of the whistleblower complaint.

"The Radical Left Democrats and their Fake News Media partners, headed up again by Little Adam Schiff, and batting Zero for 21 against me, are at it again! They think I may have had a “dicey” conversation with a certain foreign leader based on a “highly partisan” whistleblowers ... statement," Trump tweeted.

"Strange that with so many other people hearing or knowing of the perfectly fine and respectful conversation, that they would not have also come forward. Do you know the reason why they did not? Because there was nothing said wrong, it was pitch perfect!" Trump added.

DNI Inspector General Michael Atkinson in a Sept. 9 letter to the House Intelligence Committee noted that the complaint rose to a level of "urgent concern" and "appeared credible" enough to warrant congressional notification.

The DNI's general counsel and the Department of Justice, however, have disputed that characterization of the complaint, resulting in a constitutional showdown between members of Congress and the Trump administration regarding matters of potentially privileged material.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday warned that if the complaint about the president’s communications with a foreign leader have merit, then Trump “is stepping into a dangerous minefield with serious repercussions for his Administration and our democracy.”

"The President and Acting DNI’s stonewalling must end immediately, and the whistleblower must be provided with every protection guaranteed by the law to defend the integrity of our government and ensure accountability and trust,” Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a statement. “We will continue to follow the facts and explore every possible option to ensure the American people get the truth.”

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