When President Donald Trump started his press conference on Wednesday by lashing out at coverage the whistleblower scandal, he quickly pivoted to making unproven allegations against Joe Biden, his potential political rival in 2020.
He also claimed that it was a group of Senate Democrats who threatened Ukraine, not him.
“You can look all of this up,” Trump told the reporters gathered in New York.
Broadcast and cable networks were covering the event live, but as Trump went on, some media outlets decided that it was time to cut away.
On MSNBC, Nicolle Wallace interrupted and said, “We hate to do this really, but the president isn’t telling the truth,” adding that “what’s amazing is that what Trump appears to be trying to do is to turn his own impeachment into a big deflection.”
When CNN broke away from its coverage some minutes later, Jake Tapper said that Trump said “a lot of things that were not true.”
Their interruptions were a bit unusual, in that there is little doubt that a presidential press conference warranted such coverage. But there’s also concern among Democrats that Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, are using their megaphones to try to tarnish Biden with conspiracy theories that are unproven or even just outright false. In other words, if their claims are unchecked, they get a certain amount of credence.
“There’s an extraordinary team that works on the 4 p.m. that has the knowledge, the confidence and the judgment that allows us to make decisions like this on the fly,” Wallace later wrote. “I’m grateful to all of them today and every day.”
Wallace pointed out on the air that “these allegations against Joe Biden and Hunter Biden that he is repeating have been investigated by the Ukrainians. None other than The Wall Street Journal included in their report on Friday that the Ukrainians view this issue as being investigated and adjudicated.”
CNN pointed out that the three Democratic senators that Trump cited were urging the Ukrainians to cooperate with Robert Mueller’s investigation — not to launch into new investigations.
At the press conference, Trump also lashed out at the press for covering a story he said was “all a hoax” while ignoring the meetings he has had with world leaders at the UN General Assembly this week.
“With all the work that we have done, the press doesn’t even cover it,” Trump said, griping that instead the media has been focused on what he calls another “witch hunt.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday that the House was launching an impeachment inquiry. In August, a whistleblower in the intelligence community filed a complaint over conversations that Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The White House released of a non-verbatim transcript of a July phone call with Zelensky, in which Trump asked the Ukrainian leader for a “favor” that included an investigation of Biden and his son, Hunter, who was a director of a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice president. Trump defended the conversation as “perfect,” denying that he was pressuring Zelensky to launch the investigation or that it was made with some kind of “quid pro quo” involved.
Trump also told reporters that he would release notes on another conversation he had with Zelensky as well as that of a call that the Ukrainian leader had with Vice President Mike Pence.
“What we are looking for is corruption. An investigation started, a phony Russian witch hunt, and it was a total scam,” Trump said.
Trump also blasted the Washington Post — which he called the “Amazon Washington Post” — for a report on Wednesday that Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, threatened to resign if the White House tried to prevent his testimony before Congress on Thursday. Maguire denied that he had threatened to quit, but the Post is standing by its story. Maguire is expected to be asked questions about the whistleblower complaint and why it was initially withheld from Congress.
Under pressure from members of both parties, the actual whistleblower complaint was released to members of Congress on Wednesday, as reporters at the Capitol staked out a House Intelligence Committee meeting for any information on its contents.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said after the meeting that “the complaint was very well written and certainly provides information for the committee to follow up with other witnesses and documents. So we are well aware of the work we have to do.”
Schiff said that “what the whistleblower has done is expose serious wrongdoing. I think it is a travesty that this complaint was withheld, because it was an urgent matter. It is an urgent matter.”