A reporter on Wednesday asked the Finnish president what favors President Trump had asked of him as the two leaders stood side-by-side for a White House press conference.
“Because this is the biggest issue here at the moment, I have to ask: What kind of favors has Mr. Trump asked from you?” the reporter asked of President Sauli Niinistö, drawing audible gasps and some nervous laughter from other reporters and officials in the room.
“I think you mean the other way around,” Trump replied.
After Pres. Trump told Finnish Pres. Niinistö to “pick somebody nice from Finland” to ask a question, Finnish reporter says to Niinistö, “I have to ask: what kind of favors has Mr. Trump asked from you?”
— ABC News (@ABC) October 2, 2019
The question was spurred by a burgeoning scandal surrounding Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump asked for a “favor” and encouraged Zelensky to look into a company with ties to the 2016 election hacking as well as Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Niinistö responded that he had urged Trump to pay more attention to transatlantic relations, arguing it is beneficial to both the U.S. and Europe.
He also recalled a conversation with Trump in which they were discussing a purchase of military equipment from either European or American manufacturers and said Trump had responded that U.S. products are “best.”
Trump’s call with Zelensky has been at the heart of an impeachment inquiry against him in the House that was launched last week. In the time since, it was reported that Trump also phoned the Australian prime minister and urged him to cooperate in the Justice Department’s probe of former special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation.