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Giuliani says he can't be '100 percent' sure Trump didn't threaten to cut off aid to Ukraine

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By Allan Smith  with NBC News Politics
Meet the Press - Season 72
Rudy Giuliani, lawyer for President Donald Trump appears on "Meet the Press" on April 21, 2019.   -   Copyright  William B. Plowman NBC News file

President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani told Fox Business on Monday that he couldn't be "100 percent" certain the president didn't threaten to cut off military aid to Ukraine during a July phone call with the country's new president in which Trump discussed former Vice President Joe Biden.

"Did the president threaten to cut off aid to the Ukraine," Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo asked Giuliani.

"No, no that was a false story," he responded.

"One hundred percent?," she replied.

"Well, I can't tell you if it's 100 percent," Giuliani said.

Giuliani's comments come as the president's discussion with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has come under intense scrutiny.

It began with a whistleblower complaint from within the intelligence community, revealed earlier this month, which multiple outlets reported was tied to the president's discussion with Zelensky. Then, The Wall Street Journal and otheroutlets reported Trump pressed the new Ukrainian leader to investigate Biden's son Hunter's business dealings in Ukraine and whether they affected the former vice president's diplomatic efforts. For months, Trump and Giuliani have sought to get Ukraine to investigate Biden, one of the president's leading challengers.

Because the phone call occurred while Ukraine was awaiting military aid from the U.S., critics raised the possibility Trump was attempting a quid-pro-quo arrangement.

In the weeks before the whistleblower complaint became public, the Trump administration froze $250 million in military aid to Ukraine for unclear reasons. Then, just before Democrats revealed the existence of the whistleblower complaint, the administration released the hold on Ukrainian military aid and pitched in an additional $140 million.

Speaking to reporters Sunday morning, Trump denied any quid pro quo but said he did discuss Biden with Zelensky in the July 25 phone call.

"No quid pro quo, there was nothing," Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn. "It was a perfect conversation."

"The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don't want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating the corruption already in the Ukraine, and Ukraine has got a lot of problems," he added.

Speaking to reporters later on Sunday in Texas, Trump said, "I know when I give pressure."

On Saturday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said he didn't think Trump pressured Zelensky during the phone call. Trump and Zelensky are set to meet face to face on Wednesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York.

Trump and Giuliani's months-long effort to get Ukraine to further probe Biden and his son, an effort aided by the State Department, centers on Biden's 2016 call — widely backed by the international community — for Ukraine to crack down on corruption, including removing a Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was seen as ineffective and was later removed by the country's parliament. One of the cases that Shokin was investigating involved Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company whose board at the time included Biden's son.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg News, citing documents and an interview with a former Ukrainian official, reported the Burisma investigation had been dormant for more than a year by the time Biden called for the crackdown on corruption. The then-Ukrainian prosecutor general told the news agency he found no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and his son. PolitiFact, meanwhile, reported it found no evidence to "support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son's interests in mind."