Back then, Zelenskyy was in dire need of deadly aid and a united front with the US as pro-Russian separatists were at war in his country’s east. But Trump had other ideas; Although he had previously provided shipments of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, he orchestrated a halt to military aid before urging Zelenskyy to launch corruption probes into President Joe Biden. Zelenskyi did not initiate such an investigation, and help was eventually sent to Ukraine.
But the larger war against Ukraine has underscored the crucial importance of US military aid over the years in mitigating the invasion of Russia and preventing the conflict from spilling over to NATO nations. It has also highlighted the Trump administration’s refusal to cooperate with the Democrat-led impeachment probe, particularly in efforts to learn more about the withholding of aid to Ukraine; In one of Trump’s two impeachment trials, Trump was accused of ordering nine senior advisers not to testify.
Those aides — senior officials from the Household, State Department and White House — have still never revealed key clients at the heart of the controversy. Those closely involved in withholding aid say no further investigation is needed.
Mark Paoletta, who was serving as General Counsel in the Office of Management and Budget at the time, told POLITICO that the lockdown “did not cause any loss of funds,” citing data showing that a higher percentage of Ukrainians deferred by Congress Funds this is more committed than last year under the Obama administration.
“The Obama administration refused to provide lethal aid like Stinger missiles to Ukraine because President Obama did not want to upset Vladimir Putin,” Paoletta said. “That’s where we started. The Trump administration changed that and began supplying Stinger missiles.”
Among the nine aides who fiercely resisted the impeachment inquiry were Russell Vought, who served as Trump’s budget director, and Michael Duffey, a senior Vought congressman. As a result, investigators were left with several blind spots as to how and why aid to Ukraine was suspended. A federal regulator later found that withholding aid was illegal.
Indeed, the importance of Vought’s role came to light only after the Senate, mostly along party lines, acquitted Trump the allegations by the House of Representatives that he tried to blackmail a foreign leader for political reasons and subsequently obstructed the Congressional investigation. Less than a week after the Senate acquitted Trump on both counts in early 2020, Vought testified before the House Budget Committee for a routine hearing. But Democrats have never asked him about the original decision to withhold military aid.
Vought did not comment on that story, but Paoletta said Vought was willing to testify before impeachment investigators if an administrative attorney was present to protect claims to executive privileges — an offer Democrats declined.
Meanwhile, the chaos caused by the abrupt halt to aid turned into an existential crisis for Ukraine – a crisis that is affecting the current war, in which aid from the US and Western nations has offered a lifeline to the Zelenskyi government .
A person involved in the first impeachment investigation, who spoke openly on condition of anonymity, pointed to a particularly salient issue left by the refusal of some of Trump’s budget advisers to testify or share documents: the contingency plan being prepared by defense officials was to deliver him Ukraine their help – citing legal obligations – against the objection of the Budget Office. Because the aid was eventually delivered, this back-up plan was never put into motion, although planning documents may have been prepared.
The 2019 impeachment investigation revealed several facts about Trump’s pressure campaign, including his efforts to enlist US diplomats and outside advisers in his pressure on Zelenskyy to announce an investigation into Biden family members based on false claims. Much of that bid was routed through Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and Trump’s personal attorney.
Trump also repeatedly rejected Zelenskyy’s urgent requests for a White House visit and advised then-Vice President Mike Pence not to attend the inauguration of the Ukrainian leader as a sign of US support. Pence is at the center of another lingering mystery of the first impeachment: a September 18, 2019 phone call he, a key Trump envoy to Ukraine, had with Zelensky.
Details of the call came days after withheld aid to Ukraine was released and impeachment fervor began to take hold among House Democrats. she have been marked as classified by Pence’s officewhich led to protests from Democrats who said the decision to protect the information was unwarranted.
The Pence-Zelenskyy call was revealed to the House Intelligence Committee by Jennifer Williams, then a national security adviser to Pence, who testified that she thought Trump’s stance on Zelenskyy was inappropriate and political. Williams remembered the phone call according to her public statement. Pence’s aides did not respond to a request for comment on the nature or content of his conversation with Zelenskyy.
Amid these gaps in public understanding of the Trump-Ukraine saga, Democrats continue to insist that Trump bears some responsibility for the current crisis in Ukraine. The former president’s willingness to tie his support to political inquiries signaled to Putin that the West will not stand united behind Ukraine, Democrats say.
Senate Intelligence Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Trump’s decision to withhold aid “absolutely” has made Ukrainians less willing to fight the Russians and they are skeptical of the long-term US commitment to their safety.
“Remember, this was the guy who was trying to extort political favors from President Zelenskyy for his own personal political gain,” Warner said. “But the fact of the matter is we need to continue to get all the help we can as soon as possible.”
Other people involved in the 2019 affair also said they still have burning questions about what transpired. Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted by Trump shortly before Zelenskyi’s inauguration, said in a recent interview with POLITICO that she believes Trump’s dealings with Ukraine “encouraged” Putin. She said she still has no answers about some of the circumstances that led to her removal, but noted that a series of tell-all books have shed new light on the events.
“I expect,” said Yovanovitch, “that further details will be announced.”
Marianne LeVine and Katie Fossett contributed to this report.
https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/13/ukraine-war-first-trump-impeachment-00024816?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication As the war in Ukraine intensifies, questions linger from Trump’s first impeachment trial