US President Donald Trump says he wants a trial as the impeachment inquiry against him moves into the next phase.
In an hour-long interview with Fox News – a day after the final scheduled public hearings – Mr Trump also accused a witness of lying and explained his controversial use of his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine policy.
The US House of Representatives inquiry is moving into the next phase, with the Intelligence Committee writing a report to submit to the Judiciary Committee.
The Judiciary Committee is expected to begin drafting articles of impeachment in early December.
If the Democratic-led House approves articles of impeachment – formal charges – against Mr Trump, the Senate would then hold a trial on whether to convict Mr Trump and remove him from office.
Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans control the Senate and have shown little support for removing him.
“I want a trial,” Mr Trump told Fox News.
The Republican president took issue with testimony on Thursday by David Holmes, a US embassy official in Ukraine.
Mr Holmes said under oath that at a Kiev restaurant he overheard a July 26 mobile phone conversation in which Mr Trump loudly pressed Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, for details on whether Ukraine would carry out politically motivated investigations the president was seeking.
“I guarantee you that never took place,” Mr Trump told Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends program on Friday.
“That was a total phoney deal,” he added.
Mr Trump appointed Mr Sondland to the envoy post after the wealthy Oregon hotelier donated $US1 million ($1.47 million) to his inaugural committee.
While Mr Sondland in testimony described an easygoing relationship between the two, Mr Trump said on Friday he had spoken with him “a few times,” adding, “I hardly know him, OK?”
Testimony at the hearings put a spotlight on Mr Trump’s decision to give Giuliani, a private citizen with no formal job in his administration, an outsized role to shape American policy towards Ukraine rather than using the US government’s usual diplomatic and national security channels.
During the hearings, current and former White House officials and diplomats voiced alarm at Mr Giuliani’s activities, such as trying to push Ukraine to carry out two investigations that could harm Mr Trump’s political adversaries.
Mr Trump said Mr Giuliani was the right person for the job.
“He’s like an iconic figure in this country for two reasons. He was the greatest mayor in the history of New York and he was the greatest crime fighter probably in the last 50 years,” Mr Trump said of Giuliani, who previously served as the mayor of the largest US city and as a federal prosecutor.
“He’s also a friend of mine. He’s a great person,” Mr Trump added. ” … When you’re dealing with a corrupt country – if Rudy Giuliani – he’s got credentials because of his reputation. … When Rudy Giuliani goes there and you hear it’s a corrupt country, I mean, it means a lot.”
Testimony in the impeachment inquiry has shown that Mr Trump in May instructed top US officials to work with Giuliani on Ukraine policy.
Various administration officials expressed alarm at Giuliani’s actions.
“I believed then, as I do now, that the men and women of the State Department, not the president’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for Ukraine matters,” Mr Sondland said.
Democrats also are looking into whether Mr Trump abused his power by withholding $US391 million ($576 million) in security aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure Kiev into digging up dirt on his political adversaries.
Mr Trump’s allies have argued that the two investigations were not aimed at gaining a domestic political advantage but rather at combating corruption in a country receiving millions of dollars in US aid.
Mr Trump said Ukraine is “known as being the third most corrupt country in the world”.
“Are we going to be sending massive amounts of money to a country and they’re corrupt and they steal the money and it goes into everybody’s bank account?” Mr Trump told Fox News.
Ukraine ranked 120 out of the 180 countries assessed in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2018. Its score of 32 out of 100 on the index.