Zelensky rejects Trump's claim that Ukraine is corrupt in interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour
Posted February 15, 2020 8:21 a.m. EST
CNN — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday strongly rejected President Donald Trump's claim that Ukraine is a corrupt country in an interview with CNN. He also said he is ready for another phone call with Trump and stated he is open to visiting the White House.
Zelensky was speaking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour at the Munich Security Conference in his first one-on-one interview since the end of Trump's impeachment trial. A July 25 telephone call between the two men, which Trump repeatedly called "perfect," was at the heart of the impeachment probe. The Senate acquitted Trump earlier this month, finding the President not guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the two impeachment articles the House charged Trump with in December.
In response to Amanpour quoting a Fox News interview from November in which Trump claimed that Ukraine is known to be the third-most corrupt country in the world, Zelensky pushed back and said Kiev fights corruption every day.
"That's not true. When I had a meeting with President Trump, and he said that in previous years (Ukraine) was such a corrupt country, I told him very honestly and I was very open with him, I told him that we fight with corruption, we fight each day," Zelensky told Amanpour during the town hall interview.
"Please, please, stop saying that Ukraine is a corrupt country, because from now, it's not true. We want to change this image," he added.
Pressed by Amanpour on how the impeachment proceedings had affected relations between Washington and Kiev, Zelensky asserted Ukraine now has a "very good relationship with the US," and thanked Trump for his support.
"I want to thank the President, and the USA, and ordinary American people for supporting Ukraine, especially now when we have war. Thank you for your help... We feel it, we feel it with our hearts, with our body," Zelensky said.
The groundwork for the third impeachment of a US president began in September when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry following an anonymous whistleblower complaint alleging Trump sought election help from Zelensky in a July 2019 phone call. The House's whirlwind investigation that followed uncovered a months-long effort, in which, Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani pressured Ukraine to announce investigations into the President's political rivals while $400 million in US security aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting were withheld. The House voted to impeach Trump on two articles in December, backed by all but two Democrats.
Zelensky quipped that he always wanted to be popular in the US. "In my previous profession, when I was a producer, scriptwriter and actor, I wanted to get an Oscar, I wanted to be popular in the USA... Now I am very popular in the USA," Zelensky told Amanpour.
"If this way will help Ukraine, I am ready for the next call with Mr. Trump," he added.
Saturday's interview was part of an event at the MSC, an annual conference in Germany, and two US senators were in attendance.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy and his Republican counterpart Ron Johnson also had traveled to Kiev earlier in the week, emphasizing continued bipartisan support for Ukraine.
"We all are confident that President Zelensky does not want to be involved in US politics, and we hope that any pressure (that) existed in the past to do so is over," Murphy said following a meeting with the Ukrainian President, reported Reuters.
"We want to put this impeachment question behind us, and we want to be moving together, Republicans and Democrats, in supporting Ukraine."
Amanpour also will have an exclusive interview with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi later on Saturday.