Kiev — Days before special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election is set to wrap up, President Trump on Tuesday personally pressured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to investigate the Democratic National Committee as part of the probe, two Ukrainian officials told The New York Times.
An open letter to President Trump, posted Tuesday by the Ukrainian-American support group Ukrainian Community of America, said the pressure led Mr. Poroshenko to first order an anti-doping inspector who is working for the Ukrainian presidential administration to investigate the Democrats after the United States and Ukraine reached a deal to make Ukraine a U.S. ally.
The Democratic Party had paid the inspectors $1 million in addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on independent anti-doping labs in Russia to collect and analyze Russian doping samples in order to prove that Russia had been cheating for years, but leaked reports indicated that Ukraine had also been collecting Russian samples at sites.
The Times reported on Wednesday that President Trump pressed Ukrainian officials to confirm the payments made by the Democrats.
“In our presidential administration, this is the first time someone asked me to investigate and look into a political party here,” said Oleksandr Udaltsov, head of the Supreme Duma, Ukraine’s Parliament, who had heard about the request from an independent auditor who visited Kiev. “It was a peculiar thing and it’s connected to the work here in Ukraine on whether there was any involvement of the American Embassy in this.”
The Ukrainian officials who said they heard about the pressure from Mr. Poroshenko also said that they had contacted the head of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California, after hearing of the request, and confirmed that he had received a message from Mr. Poroshenko’s office. Mr. Nunes, the committee’s chairman, responded that the committee had not received any formal request for an investigation.
The messages, part of a widespread pressure campaign on European allies and opposition governments after the Russia-related sanctions that U.S. administrations introduced or threatened to impose, have often come from the National Security Council, an unusual role for a partisan administration, some analysts said.
White House officials did not deny the request had been made. “We have nothing further to add to that,” said Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman.