Tags: Trump Administration | Ukraine | trump | ukraine | aid | withhold

Trump: I Withheld Ukraine Aid Over Dispute With Europe

Tuesday, 24 September 2019 11:01 AM

President Donald Trump acknowledged that he ordered a halt to U.S. military aid to Ukraine, claiming he was frustrated that Europe wasn’t also contributing to the country’s fight with Russia-backed separatists.

Trump ordered his acting chief of staff to delay sending $400 million in military aid to Ukraine at least a week before he spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on July 25, a person familiar with the matter said Monday night. That call with Zelenskiy, in which Trump has said he discussed “corruption” in Ukraine, is the subject of a congressional investigation and is part of a mysterious whistle-blower complaint from an unidentified intelligence official.

The official raised concerns about the call between Trump and Zelenskiy as well as other actions, according to another person familiar with the matter.

Trump said Tuesday that he withheld the aid over a previously unknown dispute with Europe.

“My complaint has always been -- and I’d withhold again, and I’ll continue to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine,” Trump said as he arrived at United Nations General Assembly. “Because they’re not doing it. It’s the United States. We’re putting up the bulk of the money and I’m asking why is that.”

On Monday, Trump said he didn’t ask Zelenskiy for an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden in exchange for the military aid.

“No, I didn’t,” Trump told reporters in a meeting with Poland’s president on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Trump’s order to acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was reported earlier by the Washington Post. Asked about the episode, Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, said, “The media pushed the Russia lie for almost three years with no evidence, and now they are doing it all over again. These allegations are completely false, but because the media wants this story to be true so badly, they’ll once again manufacture a frenzy and drive ignorant, fake stories to attack this president.”

Impeachment Momentum

On Monday, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said he couldn’t rule out the possibility that the president threatened to cut off aid to Ukraine over calls for an investigation into largely discredited allegations against Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Three House committees are investigating whether Trump used the withholding of military aid as leverage, and several more Democrats have come forward to demand for impeachment proceedings. The chamber’s Democratic caucus will meet on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the whistle-blower’s complaint, according to a person familiar with the matter.

And seven freshmen Democrats who had not expressed support for impeachment wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published Monday night that “if these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense.” The seven representatives are Gil Cisneros of California, Jason Crow of Colorado, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia

At the UN, Trump grew hostile as reporters questioned him about the matter at the meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

“Joe Biden and his son are corrupt,” he said. “If a Republican ever did what Joe Biden did, if a Republican ever said what Joe Biden said, they’d be getting the electric chair by right now.”

Trump alleges that as vice president, Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its prosecutor general in 2016 in order to stop an investigation of a company connected to Hunter Biden.

Biden and Ukraine

It’s true that on behalf of the Obama administration, Biden demanded that Ukraine oust its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who had been accused of corruption by his deputy. Shokin had investigated a company called Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden sat on its board and received substantial compensation.

Biden said in a 2018 event at the Council on Foreign Relations that he had threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees from Ukraine unless its leaders dismissed Shokin. The Ukrainian parliament wound up voting to remove the prosecutor.

But by the time the Obama administration joined with other Western nations to force Shokin’s removal, the Burisma investigation had been long dormant, Shokin’s former deputy Vitaliy Kasko said in an interview with Bloomberg News earlier this year.

Trump said that in his call with Zeleskiy, “I did not make a statement that you have to do this or I’m not going to give you aid.”

Trump said he’s still thinking about releasing a transcript of the call, though he’s expressed misgivings about setting a precedent for conversations that are usually confidential.

“I may do it because it was a very innocent call,” he said. “I hope you get to see it, and I hope you get to see it soon.”

© Copyright 2020 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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President Donald Trump acknowledged that he ordered a halt to U.S. military aid to Ukraine, claiming he was frustrated that Europe wasn't also contributing to the country's fight with Russia-backed separatists.
trump, ukraine, aid, withhold
Tuesday, 24 September 2019 11:01 AM
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