President Trump defended directing an aide to withhold nearly $400 million in military funding from Ukraine a week before he had the now-infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, arguing it was a matter of wanting other countries to help fund the country’s defense.
Speaking to reporters before his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump was asked about the new report in the Washington Post that revealed Trump directed his acting chief of staff to tell the Pentagon and the State Department to withhold millions in funding for Ukraine. Trump reportedly had “concerns” about the funding and wanted to review the spending. The new Washington Post report does not tie the withheld funding to efforts to exert political pressure.
Trump told reporters on Tuesday that he delayed handing over the congressionally approved funds because he wanted “other countries to put up money.”
“Because very important, very important, I want other countries to put up money. I think it is unfair that we put up the money,” he said in response to questions about the report. “Then people called me and said, ‘Oh let it go.’ And I let it go, but we paid the money, the money was paid, but very importantly Germany, France, other countries should put up money and that’s been my complaint from the beginning.”
Trump has denied that he withheld any aid from Ukraine in order to pressure the country into investigating unsubstantiated claims about former Vice President Joe Biden, but the timing is dubious at best. That phone call is believed to be at the center of an explosive whistleblower complaint that’s sparked a battle between Congress and the White House and has since pushed an influx of Democrats toward impeachment.
During the call with Zelensky, Trump reportedly asked the Ukrainian government to look into unsubstantiated allegations against Biden.
Trump answers question about Washington Post report he withheld aid from Ukraine before call pic.twitter.com/R5RMDZ6XW3
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) September 24, 2019