President Trump has often said his interest in Ukraine was driven exclusively by concern about that country’s political corruption.
That claim has long been suspect, but as the impeachment inquiry has grown, it looks more and more like a hypocritical lie.
“The administration’s professed interest in fighting corruption in Ukraine has not been reflected in its annual budget requests to Congress,” says the Washington Post.
While Trump was seeking political dirt on Democrats, his administration “sought repeatedly to cut foreign aid programs tasked with combating corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere overseas,” The Post says, citing White House budget documents.
Ukraine’s diminished slice of that multi-billion-dollar anti-corruption pie would have meant losing tens of millions of dollars, a substantial amount for a small country, if Congress hadn’t rejected the administration proposal.
The Post notes a moment earlier this month, when Trump spoke with reporters who were questioning him about his now-famous phone call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
“I don’t care about politics, but I do care about corruption. And this whole thing is about corruption,” Trump said. “This whole thing — this whole thing is about corruption.”
This whole thing means the Zelensky phone call, the prime focus of the House impeachment inquiry, during which Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate his 2020 rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter — as well as a thoroughly debunked right-wing conspiracy theory involving the 2016 election and a Democratic National Committee computer server supposedly kept in Ukraine.
“The Trump White House has routinely pursued deep cuts to foreign aid in its budget proposals, only to be rebuffed by Congress,” the Post says, adding that the White House insists that the “proposed cuts to anti-corruption programs were a byproduct of the administration’s larger goals.”
So where does all this stand today? Pretty much the same place as before.
“In its 2020 budget request … the administration again sought to cut [an anti-corruption] program’s spending on Ukraine down to $13 million,” the Post says. “Congress seems likely to once again reject the proposed cut, although lawmakers have yet to agree on any spending bills for the 2020 budget year that began Oct. 1.”