During a conference call with House Republicans on Friday, President Donald Trump reportedly blamed Energy Secretary Rick Perry for the July 25 call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the center of Democrats' impeachment inquiry.
Citing three anonymous sources who were on the conference call, Axios reported Saturday that "Trump rattled off the same things he has been saying publicly—that his call with Zelensky was 'perfect' and he did nothing wrong."
"But he then threw Perry into the mix and said something to the effect of: 'Not a lot of people know this but, I didn't even want to make the call. The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to. Something about an LNG [liquified natural gas] plant,'" Axios reported, citing one source's recollection of the president's remarks.
"Another source on the call," according to Axios, "said Trump added that 'more of this will be coming out in the next few days'—referring to Perry," who is reportedly planning to leave the White House by the end of November.
There is no mention of an LNG plant in the memo of Trump's call with Zelensky that the White House released last month.
As the Daily Beast reported, Trump's claim that Perry is responsible for the Ukraine conversation is "contradicted by text messages released earlier this week between top U.S. diplomats and Andrey Yermak, an aide to Zelensky, which suggest Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was a primary advocate for arranging the call."
Critics were not impressed by Trump's attempt to deflect blame for the call, during which the U.S. president pressed Zelensky to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.
"'I was talked into my crime by Rick Perry' is the most implausible alibi I've ever heard," tweeted Esquire's Charles Pierce.
Others similarly lambasted the president's reported comments:
Huh, so the call was perfect.
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But the call was also Rick Perry’s idea and Trump didn’t want to do it.
And Rick Perry is leaving the administration soon.
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) October 5, 2019
Rick Perry, puppet master. Also, no puppet. He made me make the call, which I didn't want to make for obvious reasons. Also the call was fine, it was perfect. This is all made up, a hoax. They made it up. But it was perfect. And Perry made me do it. Is it, um, hot in here? https://t.co/pAz3uKN14M
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) October 5, 2019
This is not the first time Trump has thrown a member of his administration under the bus during the Ukraine scandal.
"I think you should ask for Vice President [Mike] Pence's conversation, because he had a couple of conversations also," Trump told reporters last week.
In response to Axios's reporting, writer Thor Benson tweeted, "Giuliani, Pompeo, and others should pay attention to what Trump is doing to Rick Perry. They're next."