‘We Are Pissing Away Our Money’

US

The New York Times has a long, narrative account of the block on Ukraine aid that adds some new details to the story.

A major theme is how Trump’s top national-security advisors, rightly and understandably, opposed the hold, while other officials scrambled to come up with a legal justification for it.

But the Times article also hits on something I noted the other day — that Trump’s concerns about Ukrainian corruption, were, at least in part, sincere, if obviously selective.

The Times reports this of a meeting where Bolton, Esper, and Pompeo tried to talk Trump out of the hold:

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Mr. Trump responded that he did not believe Mr. Zelensky’s promises of reform. He emphasized his view that corruption remained endemic and repeated his position that European nations needed to do more for European defense.

“Ukraine is a corrupt country,” the president said. “We are pissing away our money.”

The aid remained blocked. On Aug. 31, Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, arranged a call with Mr. Trump. Mr. Johnson had been told days earlier by Mr. Sondland that the aid would be unblocked only if the Ukrainians gave Mr. Trump the investigations he wanted.

When Mr. Johnson asked Mr. Trump directly if the aid was contingent on getting a commitment to pursue the investigations, Mr. Johnson later said, Mr. Trump replied, amid a string of expletives, that there was no such demand and he would never do such a thing.

Then, there’s this regarding Rob Portman’s push to release the aid:

. . . divisions within the administration continued to widen; Mr. Bolton was opposed to using an argument proffered by administration lawyers to block the funding. And pressure from Congress was intensifying. Mr. Johnson and another influential Republican, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, were both pushing for the aid to be released.

On a call with Mr. Portman on Sept. 11, Mr. Trump repeated his familiar refrain about other nations not doing enough to support Ukraine.

“Sure, I agree with you,” Mr. Portman responded, according to an aide who described the exchange. “But we should not hold that against Ukraine. We need to release these funds.”

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