U.S. President Donald Trump is reportedly shifting the blame for his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which has prompted an impeachment inquiry, to outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Axios reported Sunday that Trump claimed during a conference call with House members on Friday it was Perry who urged him to make the call, according to 3 sources on the call.
Axios added that Trump 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.’”
Perry, the former three-time governor of Texas, told the Christian Broadcasting Network in an exclusive interview Friday that while he did work with Ukraine as part of a U.S. effort to crackdown on corruption there, he never mentioned former Vice President Joe Bidens’ name in any discussions with Trump administration officials.
"I've talked to Kurt Volker, Gordan Sondland, the EU ambassador- every name that you've seen out in the media and not once, not once as God as my witness, not once was a Biden name - not the former vice president, not his son ever mentioned," Perry told CBN.
Perry is expected to announce his resignation in November, Politico reported on Thursday, citing three unidentified people familiar with his plans.
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A spokeswoman for the Energy Department said Perry remains a "proud member" of President Donald Trump's Cabinet, in a statement that stopped short of denying the Politico report.
"While the beltway media has breathlessly reported on rumors of Secretary Perry's departure for months, he is still the Secretary of Energy," spokeswoman Shaylyn Haynes said in a statement. "One day the media will be right. Today is not that day."
While Perry's contacts with Ukraine have drawn him into the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump by House of Representatives Democrats, the three people said his expected departure was not related to the Ukraine controversy, Politico reported.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment investigation last week after a whistleblower lodged a complaint about Trump asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to look into investigating former Democratic presidential candidate Biden and his son Hunter.
The complaint mentioned Perry, who led a small U.S. delegation to Zelenskiy's inauguration in May, replacing Vice President Mike Pence.
Perry has been free of ethics investigations that have weighed on other Trump officials, forcing a number of them, such as former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, to leave the Republican administration.
Perry, who was the longest serving governor of oil-producing Texas, has worked to advance Trump's "energy dominance" agenda on maximizing production of fossil fuels. He has been a frequent visitor to Europe promoting what he calls "freedom gas" or shipments of U.S. liquefied natural gas, to provide Poland, Lithuania and other countries as an alternative to Russian gas.
Perry often met with Khalid al-Falih, a friend and fellow alumnus of Texas A&M University, who was until early September the energy minister the world's top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia.
Perry held talks with Falih about Saudi Arabia's plans to build its first two commercial nuclear power plants, urging the kingdom to use U.S. nuclear technology, rather than Chinese or Russian technology.
Saudi Arabia has resisted agreeing to nonproliferation standards, but Perry said he told officials there it was important for the kingdom to be perceived by the world as strong on nonproliferation.
Perry has so far failed to save U.S. nuclear energy and coal plants from a rash of closures due to competition from natural gas, solar and wind power.
Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, who has attended several international energy meetings in recent months, is widely expected by energy experts to replace Perry.