Pence Gave Ukraine the Message Too

Vice President of the United States Mike Pence delivers remarks at the D.C. premiere of the film, "Apollo 11: First Steps Edition" in May 2019. (Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images)
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September 23, 2019 2:04 p.m.
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I mentioned below that the key thing about this latest and most egregious Trump scandal is that his senior team was clearly in on it, aware of it, participated in it. One key person here is Vice President Mike Pence. Earlier this month Pence flew to Poland to fill in for President Trump in meetings with European leaders on the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. On September 1st, he met in Warsaw with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The next day he held a press conference with President Duda of Poland at which he was specifically asked whether he had pressed Zelensky to manufacture damaging information about Joe Biden and whether military aid was being held up until he did.

Pence started by saying he hadn’t and then proceeded to give an answer that made it pretty clear that he had, even if he had not mentioned the former Vice President by name. It caught the ear’s of everyone who was already following this story. It’s even more clear with what we learned last week.

Here’s the text of the question and answer from the official White House transcript, with my emphasis added.

Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President. I wanted to ask you about your meeting yesterday with the Ukrainian President and for an update on Ukrainian security aid money.

Specifically, number one, did you discuss Joe Biden at all during that meeting yesterday with the Ukrainian President? And number two, can you assure Ukraine that the hold-up of that money has absolutely nothing to do with efforts, including by Rudy Giuliani, to try to dig up dirt on the Biden family?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, on the first question, the answer is no. But we — with President Zelensky yesterday, we discussed — we discussed America’s support for Ukraine and the upcoming decision the President will make on the latest tranche of financial support in great detail.

The President asked me to meet with President Zelensky and to talk about the progress that he’s making on a broad range of areas. And we did that.

We, as I said yesterday, especially since Russian aggression — the illegal occupation of Crimea and Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine — the United States has stood strong with Ukraine and we will continue to stand strong with Ukraine for its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

But as 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. 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.

We also talked in some detail about what other European nations are doing for Ukraine. The simple fact is that the United States has carried the load on most of the security investments in Ukraine. And we have been proud to do that, but we believe it’s time for our European partners to step forward and make additional investments to stand with the people of Ukraine as they assert their territorial integrity and sovereignty.

President Zelensky and I talked in great detail about ongoing discussions about resolving the ongoing violence and occupation of Ukraine. And those were the issues that we covered.

But I assured him that the people of the United States stand with Ukraine for their sovereignty and territorial integrity. But I called on him to work with us to engage our European partners to participate at a greater level in Ukraine, and also told him that I would carry back to President Trump the progress that he and his administration in Ukraine are making on dealing with corruption in their country.

Corruption is a longstanding issue in Ukraine. Rooting out that corruption has been a central focus of US policy in the country for decades. That is why the United States and the European Union were so focused on removing that prosecutor back in 2015. But in the context of what we know was happening and especially the call we know took place a month earlier, these repeated references to progress on corruption and holding up military aid until Zelensky acted could scarcely be more clear.

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