An account from an unnamed Ukrainian official presents a contradictory timeline of events that cast doubt on allegations that President Donald Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was, in the words of a whisteblower’s complaint, used to determine the willingness of Ukraine to “play ball.”
The official told The New York Times that the Ukrainian government was unaware that the $391 million in military aid had been suspended by the Trump administration until a month after the phone call.
Media accounts and accusations from congressional Democrats have claimed that the call was part of a quid pro quo arrangement in which Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate past dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son in exchange for the aid, Fox News reported.
But, as note by Fox News, “Republicans may seize on the apparent timeline inconsistencies and claim that if a quid pro quo was in place for the roughly $391 million in frozen aid, Ukrainian officials would know about it.”
In the complaint, the whistleblower said that officials with the Office of Management and Budget “stated explicitly that the instruction to suspend this assistance had come directly from the President, but they still were unaware of a policy rationale. As of early August, I heard from U.S. officials that some Ukrainian officials were aware that U.S..aid might be in jeopardy, but I do not know how or when they learned of it.”
The New York Times reported, however, that “[a] Ukrainian official said Mr. Zelensky’s government did not learn of the delay until about one month after the call.”
In its reporting on the decision to hold back the aid, The Times described the process as one in which Trump voiced concerns about corruption within Ukraine and uncertainty within the administration over the extent to which the administration should support the new government of Ukraine.
According to two senior Trump administration officials, Trump had ordered his staff to freeze the aid days before he even spoke with the Ukrainian president.
Ukraine has broad congressional support due to its conflict with Russia over Crimea, a part of Ukraine that Russia annexed by force.
Discussions over the aid had become public by Sept. 2, when Vice President Mike Pence addressed a question about aid to Ukraine during his visit to Poland, according to a White House transcript.
“[A]s President Trump had me make clear, we have great concerns about issues of corruption. And, fortunately, President Zelensky was elected decisively on an anti-corruption message,” Pence said then.
“And he and I discussed yesterday that as he’s assembled his cabinet, and as his parliament has convened, that even in the early days, he informed me that there have been more than 250 bills filed for — that address the issue of public corruption and really restoring integrity to the public process.”
“I mean, to invest additional taxpayer in Ukraine, the President wants to be assured that those resources are truly making their way to the kind of investments that will contribute to security and stability in Ukraine. And that’s an expectation the American people have and the President has expressed very clearly,” Pence said.
The aid to Ukraine was released about 10 days later.
After the aid was released, Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said the delay was necessary, if regrettable, according to Defense News.
“It was entirely reasonable that the United States spent a couple of months getting to know him and his administration. I think we should have moved faster, but there was due diligence, and the administration has been active in trying to get lethal aid to the Ukrainians in the past,” he said.
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