Chris Murphy: Trump Administration's Relationship With Ukraine Is "Incredibly Suspicious," Whistleblower Must Go Public

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In an interview Sunday on"Meet the Press," Sen. Chris Murphy told host Chuck Todd about a conversation he had with the president of Ukraine and warned that the circumstances around the Trump administration's release of foreign aid to Ukraine are "incredibly suspicious."

"I went to Kiev because I had heard concerns from my friends there that the government and [new Ukrainian President] Zelensky were really worried about these overtures he was getting -- in particular from Rudy Giuliani," Murphy recaled. "And [Zelensky] didn't understand whether this was an official government position, these requests to investigate the former vice president. So I went there to make it clear to him that the worst thing that he could do for the U.S.-Ukraine relationship was to get involved in an election here in the United States."





"I don't frankly think it matters whether there was an explicit quid pro quo in this conversation with Zelensky. I think if an American president is asking another foreign leader to interfere in an American election -- essentially what we're trying to figure out -- what was going on between Trump and Putin, then there has to be consequences for that. We spent a year trying to figure out whether he had asked Putin to interfere. We just found out he asked Zelensky to interfere. I don't know that it matters it's another country," he also said.

"I think this one would be open and shut if we had more information than simply anonymous sources that newspapers have written on," he added. " think the whistleblower has to come forward. I think that Republicans who claim to be national security experts need to demand that the whistleblower present himself or herself before Congress. But I think if we do have evidence from this whistleblower that the president indeed tried to bully a foreign power into affecting our elections, then we have to do something about it."

CHUCK TODD: And joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who actually recently met with President Zelensky in Ukraine. Senator Murphy, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: Good morning.

CHUCK TODD: All right. So tell, tell me what your conversation was like with the president because I believe you met with him before the aid was released.

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: Right.

CHUCK TODD: And it was during this time that the aid passed by Congress but for some reason was being held up by the administration. You were -- tell me was this meeting in Kiev, number one? And what was the circumstances?

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: So I went to Kiev in part because I had heard these concerns from my friends there, that the government and Zelensky personally was really worried about these overtures he was getting in particular from Rudy Giuliani. And he didn't understand whether this was an official government position, these requests to investigate the former vice president. So I went there to make it clear to him that the worst thing that he could do for the U.S.-Ukraine relationship was to get involved in an election here in the United States. I will say what was interesting to me was that he dispensed with the diplomatic protocols of that meeting. As soon as we sat down at the table in the presidential palace, he asked us what was going on with the aid, why was it being withheld.

He seemed very concerned and I think out of sorts about it. And then later in the meeting I raised with him these overtures from the Trump campaign. He gave me a very strong answer. He said they had no intention to get involved in an American election. They knew what damage it would do to them. And I left that meeting fairly confident that he understood.

CHUCK TODD: What did the Trump administration tell you officially when you were trying to figure out why -- what the holdup was?

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: So the reason that was given in particular to Senator Johnson, who I was there with.

CHUCK TODD: Ron Johnson, Republican from Wisconsin.

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: Republican from Wisconsin who had talked with the president shortly before our visit to Kiev. The reason that was given was that the president was concerned about corruption in Ukraine and he thought that the Europeans should be providing the aid instead of the United States. Those were the two reasons that were stated to us as we went. The embassy there didn't seem to have really a readout from the White House at all when we asked them about it.

CHUCK TODD: Do you have any reason to believe that the aid was suddenly released in connection with the discovery of this whistleblower complaint into the public?

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: I mean, the timing is obviously incredibly suspicious. There was also a pending vote in the Appropriations Committee that was going to require next year's aid to be released outside of the discretion of the president. There are likely a bunch of different explanations. Political pressure was mounting on the president from Republicans. But obviously the timing of this looks really terrible.

CHUCK TODD: I want to show you another coincidence that we noticed here. These are the departures among people that were involved in Russian and Ukraine policy decisions inside the Trump administration. The two top officials from DNI: July 28th, August 8th. Then you have three top officials in and around the State Department or NSC. The ambassador to Ukraine in May was forced out. The president's Russia advisor Fiona Hill resigned in June. Obviously, the ambassador to Russia John Huntsman in August. Maybe they're all coincidences. I’m not saying that -- anything about that timeline of all those folks that you find troubling? Because it's all happening at the same time that Giuliani is doing his thing and the president is doing his thing.

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: So the departure of the ambassador, one of the individuals on that screen, was very troubling to many of us. She was a credibly experienced, very well-thought-of diplomat. There seemed to be no reasons for her departure. And it's one of the reasons why in May I sent a letter to the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate asking them to investigate these overtures that Giuliani had been making and whether one of the demands that was being made was that this ambassador leave because perhaps the ambassador at the time was frustrating the Trump campaign's efforts to try to get this new president to investigate the Bidens.

CHUCK TODD: All right. I want some clarity here. Is the allegation that Rudy Giuliani was trying to get this ambassador out or the Ukrainians wanted our ambassador out?

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: I think the worry is that it may have been amongst the Trump campaign's demands. And I think it's really important to get to the bottom of why she left, under what circumstances she left, and what was she unwilling to do.

CHUCK TODD: I want to put up a tweet that you sent out I believe yesterday if I'm not mistaken. "Don't get creative," you write. "Don't look for new, interesting angles. This one is as simple as it gets. If an American president gets away with bullying foreign countries to do his political bidding, then we should just give up and accept our new banana republic." What's the next step?

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: Well, I don't frankly think it matters whether there was an explicit quid pro quo in this conversation with Zelensky. I think if an American president is asking another foreign leader to interfere in an American election -- essentially what we're trying to figure out -- what was going on between Trump and Putin, then there has to be consequences for that. We spent a year trying to figure out whether he had asked Putin to interfere. We just found out he asked Zelensky to interfere. I don't know that it matters it's another country.

CHUCK TODD: Okay. So you're saying that an impeachment investigation should be opened up right now?

CHUCK TODD: I mean, if you were in the House still. You were a former House member. You're now in the Senate. You could be a juror. I understand that. But at this point it sounds like you're saying, "This one's open and shut." Don’t be --- you just said here, "Don't get creative."

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: Yeah, I think this one would be open and shut if we had more information than simply anonymous sources that newspapers have written on. I think the whistleblower has to come forward. I think that Republicans who claim to be national security experts need to demand that the whistleblower present himself or herself before Congress. But I think if we do have evidence from this whistleblower that the president indeed tried to bully a foreign power into affecting our elections, then we have to do something about it.

CHUCK TODD: By the way, when the aid got released, they got an additional $140 million. Where did that come from?

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: Yeah, maybe an overcorrection on behalf of the president.

CHUCK TODD: Do you know where that came from?

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: No, I don't know the source of that secondary funding.

CHUCK TODD: Did you guys appropriate this money?

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: The president certainly has discretionary money at his -- that's available to him. It may have come from those accounts.

CHUCK TODD: But you have no idea, and suddenly they got more aid. So do you view that as troubling?

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: Listen, I think this whole timeline is hard to figure out. And there may be someone who can tell us more about all of it, and that whistleblower individual has to come before Congress.

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