President Trump said Tuesday that he held up American aid to Ukraine that has become the subject of furious controversy because European countries have not paid their fair share to support the country, and pointed to the fact that the money was eventually released as evidence that he had done nothing wrong.
The funds were frozen before Mr. Trump pressed the new Ukrainian president to investigate a leading Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
He also said that a groundswell for his impeachment among Democratic lawmakers amounted to a new “witch hunt.”
“I’m leading in the polls and they have no idea how to stop me,” Mr. Trump said, though the president trails the leading Democratic candidates in most polls. “The only way they can try is through impeachment.”
The $391 million aid package in question was provided to Ukraine for its defense against a Russian-backed separatist insurgency in its east which has left more than 13,000 people dead over the past five years.
Mr. Trump also noted that the funds allocated for Ukraine “were fully paid,” although he did not mention the fact that his administration acted only after the delay became public through news media leaks, and under bipartisan pressure from Congress.
And he suggested that a transcript of his July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, whose release many Democrats have insisted on, would become public. Mr. Trump repeated his assertion that the transcript would exonerate him.
“When you see the call, when you see the readout of the call, which I assume you’ll see at some point, you’ll understand that call was perfect,” he said.
Mr. Trump addressed reporters minutes before his annual address to the United Nations General Assembly, where he is expected to focus on Iran at a moment of crisis in the Persian Gulf, that has escalated in the wake of drone and missile strikes on key Saudi oil facilities earlier this month. Iran has denied responsibility for the attack, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are supplied by Iran, have taken credit. But Trump officials say they are certain that Iran was responsible.
In the days since that attack, which shook global energy markets, Mr. Trump has alternated between threats of fierce military action and calls for patience and restraint. An American military response could escalate the conflict with potentially devastating consequences for the global economy, which is powered by a Middle Eastern oil flow that Iran can easily disrupt. Mr. Trump is considering a range of retaliatory options, including cyberattacks. Mr. Trump projected confidence about the standoff with Tehran, telling reporters that “Iran is coming along very well. We’re in very good shape with respect to Iran.”