A downbeat Donald Trump has dismissed as a “joke” the grounds laid out for the impeachment inquiry into him, as Democrats stood firm in accusing the US president of a “mafia-style shakedown” of his Ukrainian counterpart.
Trump denied claims he abused his office by repeatedly urging President Volodymyr Zelensky to probe his rival Joe Biden — as confirmed in a call transcript released by the White House.
The next explosive episode in the rapidly unfolding impeachment drama is set for Thursday, when acting director of national intelligence Joseph McGuire testifies on Capitol Hill.
“They are getting hit hard on this witch hunt because when they look at the information, it’s a joke,” said the president, who struck an uncharacteristically subdued tone at his first news conference since Democrats launched an official impeachment inquiry.
“Impeachment for that? When you have a wonderful meeting or you have a wonderful phone conversation?” A more defiant Trump had earlier insisted he exerted “no pressure” on Kiev — a claim echoed by Zelensky, who appeared side-by-side with the US leader at a long-planned meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.