President Donald Trump on Friday dismissed growing scrutiny over a whistleblower complaint that reportedly raised concerns about a conversation he had with a Ukrainian leader, saying the focus should instead be on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s ties to Ukraine during his time as vice president.
“It doesn’t matter what I discussed, but I’ll tell you this, somebody ought to look into Joe Biden’s statement,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with the Australian prime minister.
Trump said he did not know who the whistleblower is, but slammed the complaint as “partisan” and “ridiculous” and asserted that Biden is getting a pass because he’s a Democrat.
“The fake news doesn’t look into things like that,” he said. “It’s a disgrace.”
“Keep asking questions and build it up as big as possible so you can have a bigger downfall,” he added.
The whistleblower complaint has been the subject of intense interest in recent days after The Washington Post first reported on Wednesday that it involved Trump making a “promise” to a foreign leader. The Post and New York Times later reported that the incident in question involved Ukraine.
Further driving scrutiny about the complaint is the administration’s decision to release military aid to Ukraine after a delay that had frustrated lawmakers in both parties.
The inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, declined to discuss the details of the whistleblower complaint with members of the House Intelligence Committee during a closed-door meeting on Thursday.
Trump’s handling of sensitive information has come under criticism in the past, and Democrats pushing for the president’s impeachment are likely to seize on any indications that he pressed an ally to investigate an opponent or that he politicized intelligence information.
But the president’s allies have seized on Biden’s connection to Ukraine in an attempt to paint the former vice president and front-runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination as corrupt.
Biden’s son, Hunter, worked with a natural gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch. Biden pushed in 2016 for the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor who had been accused of overlooking corruption in his own office.
While there’s no indication Biden was acting with his son’s interests in mind, Trump’s allies, including attorney Rudy Giuliani, have claimed that the former vice president should be further investigated in Ukraine.
Giuliani acknowledged in a CNN interview on Thursday night that he had asked Ukraine to investigate Biden.
In short, Trump and his allies are openly conspiring with a foreign power to dig up dirt on an American presidential candidate.