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Donald Trump offers to read transcript of controversial Ukraine phone call in ‘fireside chat’ on live TV

Donald Trump has promised to read a transcript of his controversial phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a "fireside chat" broadcast live to the American people.

The US president insisted he has "done nothing wrong" as he defiantly said he would not cooperate with the ongoing impeachment investigation into allegations he withheld military aid from Ukraine while he pushed the government to investigate a political rival.

The inquiry, which is being led by Democrats in the US House of Representatives, was triggered by the July 25 phone call between Mr Trump and Mr Zelenskiy, during which he asked the Ukrainian leader to do him a "favour" and investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Mr Trump acknowledges discussing Mr Biden, a leading Democratic 2020 candidate, but denies there was anything wrong with the request.

"At some point, I’m going to sit down, perhaps as a fireside chat on live television, and I will read the transcript of the call, because people have to hear it. When you read it, it’s a straight call," Mr Trump said in an interview with the Washington Examiner.

Mr Trump's phone call with Volodymyr Zelenskiy is at the centre of the scandalCredit:
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The unusual offer, which recalls the string of evening radio addresses President Franklin D Roosevelt delivered to the American public during the Great Depression, is part of Mr Trump’s strategy of maintaining public support over the phone call. The president’s efforts have so far included preparing t-shirts and other merchandise with the slogan "read the transcript".

The comments came after a historic vote in the House of Representatives, which on Thursday voted for only the third time in history to formalise impeachment proceedings against a president.

The House, where the Democrats hold the majority, voted largely along party lines 232 to 196 on a resolution outlining how the investigation will progress.

The result means that the impeachment inquiry will soon enter a public phase, with open hearings expected to take place as early as this month with key witnesses in the Ukraine scandal.

Despite the formal vote, Mr Trump said he does not intend to cooperate with the proceedings, saying it would set "a terrible precedent for other presidents".

Process of impeachment

But Stephanie Grisham, Mr Trump’s press secretary, conceded on Friday that the White House was "prepared for an impeachment to happen".€

Appearing on Fox News, Ms Grisham said she does not consider it a "foregone conclusion"€, but said "that’s something we’re expecting".

Mr Trump would still have to be tried and convicted in the Republican-controlled Senate in order to be removed from office.

Ms Grisham went on to say the White House was giving "serious consideration"€ to Mr Trump’s idea of holding a "fireside chat" on live television in which he would read a transcript of the call.

"That was his idea,"€ Ms Grisham said. "He’s got nothing to hide. I think that’s the point that’s not getting across."€

Meanwhile a new poll released on Friday shows America remains divided over whether Mr Trump should be impeached and removed from office, with 49 per cent agreeing and 47 per cent disagreeing.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll found that respondents’ views fell sharply along party lines, with 82 per cent of Democrat respondents favouring impeachment and the same number of Republican respondents opposed to it.

However the survey also found that Mr Trump’s job approval rating among his own party appears to have fallen to a record low 74 per cent, down 13 percentage points from a July poll.

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