“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, that you discuss the options that are there,’” he said. Axios reported on Saturday that Trump told House Republicans he made the call at Perry’s request.
Perry also said he discussed the issue of corruption broadly with Zelensky and his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, but only as part of an effort to make the nation more appealing for energy investment opportunities. No public evidence has emerged to show that Perry asked Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son Hunter.
POLITICO was first to report about how Perry urged Ukranian officials to put the U.S. businessmen on the supervisory board of Naftogaz. An Associated Press story subsequently outlined similar allegations, though Perry steadfastly denied any impropriety.
“The idea that the AP story basically said that we said, ‘you put these people on there’ is just not correct. That was a totally dreamed-up story, best I can tell,” Perry said. “We gave recommendations at the request of the Ukrainian government and will continue to.”
The Energy secretary said he did not recall whether his recommendations included Michael Bleyzer, head of a private equity firm based in Houston, but said he’d known him for years and would recommend him for a host of roles.
“Best I can tell, he’s a really brilliant, capable businessman who I would recommend … for a host of different things in Kiev,” Perry said. “He knows the country. He’s from there. So, why not?”
The other energy executive was Robert Bensh, a Houston oil executive currently with Pelicourt LLC.
Perry also denied he was planning to step down from his position, which POLITICO, the New York Times and Washington Post reported last week.
“I’m here. I’m serving. They’ve been writing the story that I was leaving the Department of Energy for at least nine months now. One of these days they’ll probably get it right. But it’s not today. It’s not tomorrow. It’s not next month,” Perry said.
POLITICO’s report, which cited three people familiar with the former Texas governor’s plan, revealed that Perry plans to depart the administration by the end of November.
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