WASHINGTON — President Trump dismissed on Friday a whistle-blower complaint said to involve him as a “partisan” attack, but acknowledged that he did not know the identity of the person who lodged it.
Details of the complaint remained murky, but the allegations deal at least in part with Ukraine, two people familiar with it have said. That revelation immediately increased scrutiny on Mr. Trump’s public push for the country’s new government to investigate a political rival, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, and whether it was related to the White House’s hold this summer on a military aid package for Ukraine that it has since released.
Mr. Trump was also playing defense against concerns that he was ill-equipped to handle delicate communications as other details of the complaint surfaced, including that it dealt in part with an unspecified commitment he made to an unnamed foreign leader, a person familiar with it has said. Mr. Trump also said that he did not know the leader in question.
“I had a great conversation with numerous people, numerous leaders, and I always look for the conversation that’s going to help the United States the most,” he told reporters in the Oval Office after the arrival of Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia for a state visit.
Mr. Trump derided the complaint as a “ridiculous story” and said his communications with other leaders were “at the highest level always appropriate.” When asked whether he had brought up Mr. Biden during a July phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, Mr. Trump waved away the question but added, “Someone ought to look into Joe Biden.”
The existence of the complaint, submitted by a member of the intelligence community to its inspector general, emerged late last week and exploded into the open late on Wednesday when The Washington Post reported that it concerned Mr. Trump.
And Thursday after the Ukraine link emerged in news reports late Thursday, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani shed more light on it in a rambling CNN appearance, where he first denied, then admitted, to asking the government in Kiev to investigate the Bidens.
Mr. Giuliani has spearheaded a push such an inquiry. He met with Mr. Zelensky’s emissaries this summer in hopes of encouraging his government to ramp up investigations into two matters regarding the Biden family: the question of any overlap with Mr. Biden’s diplomatic dealings with Ukraine, as well as the details of his son’s involvement in a gas company there.
Mr. Giuliani has said he was acting on his own, though his comments on Thursday seemed to draw a closer connection to Mr. Trump. “A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job,” Mr. Giuliani wrote on Twitter shortly after his appearance on CNN asserting the same thought.
Three Democratic House committee chairmen have requested the transcript of the president’s call with Mr. Zelensky from the State Department and the White House as part of an investigation into whether Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani were misappropriating the American foreign policy apparatus for political gain.
And in recent weeks, congressional aides and administration officials who work on Ukraine issues had become concerned that the White House was delaying the military assistance package for Kiev, according to people involved in an effort to free up the assistance.
Vice President Mike Pence, who recently met with Mr. Zelensky in Poland, denied bringing up Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to investigate Mr. Biden in their conversations, but said Mr. Trump was still making the decision on “the latest tranche of financial support.”