President Donald Trump and his allies have repeated ad nauseam that he froze congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine because of his staunch determination to weed out corruption in the Ukrainian government, not to pressure Ukraine into helping his political campaign.
But his administration’s budget proposals for international anti-corruption programs blow an enormous hole in that (already shaky) defense.
White House budget documents, first reported by the Washington Post, show that the Trump administration slashed millions from funds to assist Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts through the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement program (INCLE) in the fiscal years of 2019 and 2020.
After Congress authorized $30 million from the program’s budget to go to Ukraine in 2018, the administration tried to slash it down to a mere $13 million in 2019 (a proposal Congress rejected). Now the administration is attempting once more to cut the funding down to $13 million in its 2020 proposal.
The Trump administration also gutted the budget for the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), slashing the nearly $216 million Congress approved in 2018 to $170 million in the administration’s 2019 proposal. The administration has cut it down further to $146 million in its 2020 proposal.
The cuts to the INL are especially eyebrow-raising considering that, per the State Department’s own summary of the agency’s work in Ukraine, the INL aims to “support Ukraine’s efforts to tackle corruption, including through independent anti-corruption agencies.”
Additionally, the INL’s list of accomplishments in the region include supporting the Ukrainian government’s “establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO), and the High Anti-Corruption Court.”
The Office of Management and Budget defended the cuts in a response to the Post.
“The President has consistently sought across-the-board cuts to foreign aid, and has proposed more cuts in his budgets than any other president in history,” OMB spokesperson Rachel Semmel said. “He has also strongly encouraged other countries to contribute their own efforts and resources to their defense and reform efforts.”
“Numbers don’t lie,” House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement sent to TPM.
“President Trump has repeatedly tried to cut the very aid programs focused on fighting corruption in Ukraine – proving beyond a doubt that he is not the anti-corruption crusader he claims to be,” he continued. “The House impeachment inquiry must continue unimpeded so all the facts can come out.”