Did President Donald Trump instruct U.S. officials to withhold aid to Ukraine until that country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, launched an investigation of the man who hopes to challenge the U.S. president in 2020? Recently, Democrats have been claiming just that as they grasp at impeachment straws. This was not what they were saying just three months ago, however.
During the ongoing congressional circus that passes for an impeachment investigation, Democrats have constantly raised the issue of the U.S. aid being temporarily held back. In an effort to expand the perception of some vast conspiracy to coerce the Ukrainian government into investigating Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, Trump’s political opponents pushed the theory that aid was being withheld until Ukraine agreed to open the investigation.
Remember When it Was Russia?
As recently as August, though, the story was that Trump held back the aid – distributed as part of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative – in order to appease and assist his Russian overlords. Back then, Democrats who lamented the hold did not even mention Ukraine. Until an anti-Trump, intelligence community nobody decided to complain about a phone call to which he or she was not privy, it was unlikely that any of those Democrats could have pointed to Ukraine on a map.
“Trump is once again showing himself to be an asset to Russia,” whined Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “President Trump should stop worrying about disappointing Vladimir Putin and stand up for U.S. national security priorities,” said Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
Ironically, neither Menendez nor Malinowski is known to have expressed disappointment that former President Barack Obama refused to provide weaponry to Ukraine precisely because he did not want to disappoint Putin. Former Obama administration officials prefer to frame it as their boss having been concerned about provoking Russia into war, which is pretty much the same thing. It is worth mentioning, also, that Obama’s apparent concern was pointless since Russia had invaded Ukraine on his watch.
An Inconvenient Article
The two aforementioned Democrats were quoted in a Politico article from August 29, 2019, appearing under the headline: “Trump holds up Ukraine military aid meant to confront Russia.” The inference in the headline alone is obvious – that the aid was being held back because Trump is in league with Moscow. The article itself references the Russians, in one way or another, no less than 15 times.
“United States military aid to Ukraine has long been seen as a litmus test for how strongly the American government is pushing back against Moscow,” writes Politico reporters Caitlin Emma and Connor O’Brien. Interesting, then, that this litmus test is not applied to the Trump administration’s provision to Ukraine of Javelin anti-armor missiles compared to the Obama administration’s provision of blankets – and maybe also some cookies. To be fair, though, that point is made – albeit in a way that avoids directly criticizing Trump’s predecessor:
“The Trump administration in 2017 approved lethal arms sales to Ukraine, taking a step the Obama administration had never done.”
In fact, the Politico article – despite its obvious purpose of painting Trump as a Russian puppet – completely undercuts the Democrats’ latest fantasy about quid pro quo, or bribery, as they now call it after consulting a focus group.
With a nod to the fact that the president has never been a big fan of foreign aid in general, the Politico piece reports that the assistance was under review “amid a broader internal debate over whether to halt or cut billions of dollars in foreign aid.”
According to an administration official, the article continues, “the president wants to ensure U.S. interests are being prioritized when it comes to foreign assistance, and is seeking assurances that other countries are ‘paying their fair share.’”
It is certainly true that the temporary freeze of aid to Ukraine sparked great concern throughout the intelligence community and within the State Department, specifically. From Capitol Hill, there were bipartisan calls for the aid to be released, but this Politico article goes on to mention “The Trump administration’s broader push to freeze or slash foreign aid.”
Dems Still Dancing to Putin’s Music
It is no secret, to be sure, that Trump is not happy with the idea of millions – or even billions – of American taxpayer dollars being funneled to various countries where they could be, at best, misspent or, at worst, embezzled or used for corrupt purposes. The idea, then, that the president would hit the brakes on sending money to Ukraine – a country he views with much skepticism – is hardly surprising.
Even if one chooses to buy what Democrats and their media pals were peddling just a matter of weeks ago, though – that Trump was doing Putin a favor by holding up the Ukraine aid – it seems curious that this narrative was suddenly abandoned. Though perhaps “curious” is not the right word. There is nothing curious about it, in fact. Once the Ukraine story was hatched by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and his “whistleblower,” the Trump administration’s aid review presented Democrats with a perfect opportunity to weave it into their Ukraine bribery fairy tale.
Meanwhile, It should be remembered that as the president’s enemies continue their attempts to engineer a soft coup against him, they are doing exactly what Vladimir Putin has always wanted: They are battering and bruising both the nation and the U.S. political system in ways of which the Russian leader could only have dreamed. Whether or not they realize it, the impeachment-happy Democrats are themselves still dancing at the end of Putin’s strings.
Read more from Graham J Noble.