News and Commentary

Ukraine Reportedly Had No Idea About Trump Withholding $391 Million Until Month AFTER Call
US President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speak during a meeting in New York on September 25, 2019, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Quid pro quo? More like a quid pro didn’t-know. According to Democrats who have moved ahead with impeachment, President Trump sought to trade hundreds of millions in aid to Ukraine for dirt on Joe Biden and his son, who had lucrative business dealings in the country.

But the New York Times’ Kenneth Vogel posted an interesting statement on Twitter last week in the midst of the mess.

“The Ukrainians weren’t made aware that the assistance was being delayed/reviewed until more than one month after the call,” he wrote.

That kinda’ changes everything.

Trump says he put the aid on hold — $391 million — to pressure other neighbors of Ukraine to pony up cash and to allow U.S. officials time to evaluate programs. But Democrats claim he demanded a quid pro quo.

Here’s what Trump said in the July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelensky:

I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down, and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.

Trump never demanded Zelensky “investigate” Biden’s son, simply asks him to if he can “look into it.” But that also has to be taken in context. Trump had previously expressed his interest in allegations that Ukraine had played some role in meddling with the 2016 election. Here’s what Trump said on that subject:

I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people, and I would like to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.

That was clearly an effort by Trump to probe backward into the 2016 election. That’s the “favor” Trump was asking — no pressure, just a favor.

But if Zelensky didn’t know that the money was being withheld, there can be no quid pro quo.

And that’s according to the least likely source you’d expect — a New York Times reporter.