According to Republican senators, President Donald Trump had a very good reason to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats. The president's reason, they explain, was his deep concern over corruption. Republicans believe they can get away with this incredible lie because there is no way to disprove it. But it is. Text messages released last month showed that Trump's pressure on Ukraine was never about corruption. And this week, Congress revealed further evidence to debunk the "corruption" defense: more than 1,000 pages of testimony from the three men in the middle of Trump's blackmail campaign.
The testimony comes from Gordon Sondland, US Ambassador to the European Union; Bill Taylor, Acting US Ambassador to Ukraine; and Kurt Volker, Trump's former special envoy to Ukraine. It shows that Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani – who was essentially deputed by Trump to run the U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine – consistently pursued Trump's personal interests. They never did what anyone who cares about corruption should have done.
A test of sincerity, for example, is whether you are targeting corruption wherever it exists, or only in countries where it suits your interests. Trump flunked this test. Volker during his October 3 testimony was asked if he had ever heard Trump express "concerns over corruption in any country other than Ukraine." He said no. Sondland, during his October 17 deposition, was asked if he knew of "any support withheld to the other 28 countries in your portfolio during President Trump 2018 or 2019." He said he didn't.
Another test is whether you call politicians corrupt when they are actually corrupt, or only when they do something you don't like. Again, Trump passed the test. Sondland could not remember any attempt by Trump to block Ukraine's support last year, when the Kyiv government is plagued by corruption. However, Taylor testified that Volodymyr Zelensky, who took office as Ukrainian president this year, "appointed reformist ministers", opened an anti-corruption court, abolished legislators' immunity to prosecution, and "backed legislative anti-corruption legislation." Zelensky's anti-corruption initiative. An American president who cared about corruption should have been touched by this presentation. But Trump wasn't. "He didn't want to hear about it," Sondland testified.
The US government has an official process, established in the National Defense Authorization Act, to assess whether countries receiving military support do enough to combat corruption. Taylor testified that Ukraine had approved this assessment. During Sondland's deposition, ropes pointed. Debbie Wasserman Schultz from Florida on a May 23 letter from the Department of Defense confirming Ukraine's compliance with the anti-corruption requirements for military assistance. Trump ignored the letter and blocked the support anyway.
This behavior – abuse of power for selective prosecution – is exactly the nitrogen ant Ukraine tried to escape .
Trump and Giuliani have attacked or defended various figures in Ukraine's story based on whether they were useful to Trump, not if they were corrupt. An example is Marie Yovanovitch, Taylor's predecessor as the US ambassador. Taylor testified that Yovanovitch consistently pushed Ukraine to crack down on corruption. Trump and Giuliani responded by quitting her. Another example is Viktor Shokin, Ukraine's former chief prosecutor. Volker testified that Biden, when he was vice president, demanded Shokin's removal because Shokin, according to every Western government, "did not pursue cases of corruption." Trump and Giuliani responded by leaving Biden and defending Shokin.
Taylor made an important point in his deposition on October 22. When Republican interrogators argued that Trump was right to ask Ukraine to launch specific investigations, the ambassador explained that real reform is about building institutions, not targeting some people. The official US policy in Ukraine, he noted, was aimed at clearing up "the selection process for judges, the selection process for prosecutors, the institutions." And that's what Zelensky did. "He pushed it really hard," Taylor said.
That's what disturbed Taylor about Giuliani's mix. According to Taylor, while US officials focused on "institution-building," Giuliani wanted to "focus on one or two specific cases, whether it helped solve the corruption problem." When Ukraine offered a statement promising to crack down on corruption, Giuliani said it was not enough. Volker testified that in a telephone conversation Giuliani explicitly "said that [the statement] must mention Burisma [a company connected to Biden’s son] and 2016. And if it does not, it is not credible." Sondland, who was also in the conversation with Giuliani, confirmed this account. When the House Attorney General's Attorney asked if Giuliani had called for these two investigations "to serve Donald Trump's political interests and not the national interests," Volker replied, "Yes."
Sondland's testimony revealed the same unbelief on Trump's part. During the ambassador's deposition, the rep pointed out. Tom Malinowski in New Jersey that the US State Department has a long-standing list of anti-corruption measures it has requested from Ukraine. One request is "to strengthen the Prosecutor's Office." Another is "cleaning up corruption in the defense sector." Malinowski asked Sondland if, to his knowledge, anyone in the Trump administration had ever proposed to hold meetings or support based on these institutional requests. Sondland so no. Trump used these levers just to get the two investigations he wanted.
In private, Trump made it clear that when he talked about Ukraine's corruption, he meant behavior that threatened him personally. Volker recalled that the President in his May 23 meeting with Trump, Sondland and other officials "gave the example of hearing from Rudy Giuliani that they are all corrupt, that they are all terrible people, that they were trying to" take me down "- meaning the president – in the 2016 election. " When the intelligence committee's investigating director asked Volker if Trump gave "any specific examples other than the fact that they were trying to" remove him, "Volker said no. Sondland told the same story." He says it over and over, "Sondland remembers." They tried to take me down . They tried to take me down . "
That's what "corruption" meant to Trump. It was not about cleaning Ukraine. It was about using American power, including nearly $ 400 million in military aid, to damage his enemies. And that behavior – abuse of power for selective prosecution – is exactly the square that Ukraine tried to escape. "It is true that 'anti-corruption' was played in Ukraine for decades," Volker testified. “It was not just about fighting corruption. It was about who are my enemies and who are my friends. "Instead of dragging Ukraine out of that suffocation, Trump threw America into it.