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The controversy over President Trump’s request for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son is “just the tip of the iceberg” for the president’s dealings with foreign heads of state, presidential candidate Julián Castro said.
Castro told MarketWatch on Friday he believed Trump had put himself before his country, including during his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, now the focus of an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats.
“He has flagrantly abused his power [and] put his own political interest and financial interest above the national interest in a number of ways,” said the 45-year-old former Housing and Urban Development Secretary, one of the first Democratic presidential contenders to call for Trump’s impeachment.
A whistleblower complaint declassified this week alleged that Trump had abused his office and pressured Ukraine to probe Biden, his political opponent in the 2020 presidential election, in an attempt to aid his own re-election. White House officials moved to cover up the incident, the anonymous whistleblower alleged, including by moving evidence of the phone call to a classified “codeword-level” computer system.
“According to White House officials I spoke with, this was ‘not the first time’ under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information,” the whistleblower said.
Castro questioned whether Trump had discussed similar matters on other calls. “I believe that server they secreted away with these call summaries and transcripts on should be delivered to Congress, so that we can see what else he’s been telling foreign leaders,” he said.
The White House, which released a rough summary of the July 25 call this week, did not immediately return a request for comment on Castro’s comments.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told reporters in a statement Thursday that the whistleblower’s complaint was “nothing more than a collection of third-hand accounts of events and cobbled-together press clippings,” and that the White House would “continue to push back on the hysteria and false narratives being peddled by Democrats and many in the mainstream media.”
Trump, who denies any wrongdoing, has called the Ukraine affair “another witch hunt.”
Castro maintained that talking about impeachment wouldn’t hurt Democrats, pointing to new polls that show support for impeachment inching up. A Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted between Sept. 24 and 26, for example, showed that support had risen 7 points and opposition had decreased 6 points since a poll taken the previous weekend.
“By the time this is over, I’m confident that more than a majority of the American people are going to support removing him from office — not only impeaching him, but removing him from office,” Castro said.
Castro, who is a former San Antonio mayor and the sole Hispanic contender in the 2020 presidential election campaign, spoke from the L’Attitude entrepreneurship conference in San Diego, where the nonprofit Latino Donor Collaborative unveiled a report conducted by California Lutheran University arguing that the Hispanic population represented the future of the economic growth in the United States.
Asked what economic obstacles he believes U.S. Latinos face, Castro pointed to a financial literacy gap and noted that many Latinos remain unbanked. Some 14% of Hispanic households in 2017 were unbanked, or lacking a checking or savings account, compared to the national rate of 6.5%, according to FDIC data.
“Small business owners also face a tremendous lack of access to capital — which is a common challenge for a lot of small-business owners, but especially in communities of color, there’s oftentimes an even higher barrier,” Castro added.
The candidate faces hurdles to gaining traction in national opinion polls. In a fundraising email this week, he projected that failure to meet the Democratic National Committee’s fifth-debate polling cutoff would doom his campaign. His polling average sits at 1.4%, according to RealClearPolitics. Castro, a first-time presidential candidate, said that “starting from scratch” on email lists and name identification had posed an early challenge to his campaign.
“Little by little in this race, I’ve been getting stronger and stronger,” he said, citing recent polls that put him at 2% and 3%. “But the email that I sent out to our supporters was an honest one — that this is crunch time.”