US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Monday that he “absolutely” asked President Donald Trump “multiple times” to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but about energy – not the Bidens – and said he is not leaving his role in the administration.
Speaking at a press conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, Perry said that he told Trump that it was in the best interest of the two nations to have discussions regarding energy issues. His response comes on the heels of reports that Trump told lawmakers Perry urged him to make the July 25 call that has become a key focus of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into the President.
“Absolutely, I asked the President multiple times. ‘Mr. President, we think it is in the United States and in Ukraine’s best interest that you and the President of Ukraine have conversations and discuss the options that are there,’” Perry said Monday. “So absolutely yes.”
Perry was not part of the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky, his spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes told CNN in an email Monday. Hynes also said that “Hunter and Joe Biden have never come up in the Secretary’s conversations on Ukraine.”
CNN previously reported that some text messages released by former US Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker showed that Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was working to set up the call with Zelensky. The texts also show that several other US diplomats, including Volker, were working to arrange the conversation.
The Energy Department confirmed on Sunday that Perry “supported and encouraged” Trump to speak with Zelensky on matters related to energy and the economy.
Energy issues, though, were not discussed during the July phone conversation between the two leaders, according to a rough transcript of the call released by the White House. The transcript instead revealed Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Joe Biden and the activities of the former vice president’s son, Hunter, who had been on a board of a Ukrainian natural gas company.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
A separate whistleblower complaint alleged the President abused his official powers “to solicit interference” from Ukraine in the upcoming 2020 election, and that the White House took steps to cover it up. Trump has denied doing anything improper.
On Friday, Perry said on the Christian Broadcasting Network that Joe Biden’s name did not come up during the many conversations that he had with Trump and others.
“Not once, as God as my witness, not once was a Biden name – not the former Vice President, not his son – ever mentioned,” he said at the time.
The New York Times and The Washington Post reported Friday that Perry plans to leave his post by December, though no official announcement has been made. Perry denied those reports Monday.
“Absolutely no. I’m here. I’m serving. They’ve been writing the story that I’m leaving the Department of Energy for nine months now,” he said.
CNN’s Lauren Kent and Nina dos Santos reported from Vilnius, Lithuania, and Zahid Mahmood in London. Kevin Bohn and Devan Cole contributed to this report from Washington.