Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then-National Security Adviser John Bolton, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper reportedly tried to persuade President Donald Trump to release the congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine that he had frozen.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that the three senior officials had met with Trump in the Oval Office on a “late-August day,” in the Times’ words, so that they could each explain why it was important for Ukraine to receive the nearly $400 million in aid.
An unnamed official told the Times that Bolton told Trump the aid was “in America’s interest.”
Esper reportedly assured the President that much of the funds went to purchasing U.S.-manufactured military equipment and that the aid was therefore an asset to the country.
“This defense relationship, we have gotten some really good benefits from it,” he said, according to the Times.
However, Trump was reportedly unconvinced, telling his top officials that Ukraine is “a corrupt country” and that “[w]e are pissing away our money.”
The President continued to hold up the funds until September 11, when he abruptly released them after Democrats announced an investigation into the unexplained aid freeze.