FACT-CHECK: No, Trump Was Not Interested In Fighting Corruption In Ukraine

9 mins read
Graphic from Impeachment HQ.

GOP SPIN: GOP counsel Steve Castor is focusing on a debunked conspiracy theory to suggest Trump’s interest in investigating the Bidens was on fighting general corruption in Ukraine, not investigating a political rival.

THE FACTS: This is false.

  • In his testimony, Ambassador Volker says that talk of anti-corruption was simply code for investigating Trump’s political rivals.
    • Volker Testified That Giuliani Was Not Actually Interested Investigating Corruption, Only In Biden In Actuality. “Q: So is it your testimony that you understood that Rudy Giuliani ‘s desire for the Ukrainian Government to investigate Burisma had to do with potential money laundering or other criminal conduct by the company itself, and not in connection to either Joe or Hunter Biden? A: No. I believe that Giuliani was interested in Biden, Vice President Biden’s son Biden, and I had pushed back on that, and I was maintaining that distinction. Q: So you were maintaining that distinction, because you understood that that whole theory had been debunked and there was no evidence to support it, right? A: Yes.” [Volker Testimony, 10/3/19]
  • Trump never uttered the word “corruption” in his July 25 phone call with President Zelensky. However, he did mention the Bidens multiple times.
    • Trump Continued To Press Zelensky, Saying That Biden Had Stopped A Ukrainian Prosecutor From Investigating His Son. “The President: Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good, and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening, and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news, and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.” [The Washington Post, 9/25/19]
    • After Zelenskyy Pledged To Investigate Burisma, Trump Said That He Would Have Giuliani And Barr Call Him. “President Zelenskyy: I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor. First off, I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have on the absolute majority in our Parliament; the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. […] The President: Well, she’s going to go through some things. I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it. I’m sure you will figure it out. I heard the prosecutor was treated very badly, and he was a very fair prosecutor so good luck with everything. Your economy is going to get better and better, I predict. You have a lot of assets. It’s a great country. I have many Ukrainian friends, they’re incredible people.” [The Washington Post, 9/25/19]
  • The Trump Administration sought to cut millions of dollars to programs fighting corruption in Ukraine.
    • The Trump Administration Sought To Cut Foreign Aid Programs Tasked With Combating Corruption. “The Trump administration has sought repeatedly to cut foreign aid programs tasked with combating corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere overseas, White House budget documents show, despite recent claims from President Trump and his administration that they have been singularly concerned with fighting corruption in Ukraine. […] The administration’s professed interest in fighting corruption in Ukraine has not been reflected in its annual budget requests to Congress. For example, the administration sought to cut a program called International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement. Among the goals of the program, as described in White House budget documents, is “helping U.S. partners address threats to U.S. interests by building resilience and promoting reform in the justice and law enforcement sectors through support to new institutions and specialized offices, such as Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau and Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.” The program directs specific sums of money to individual countries. In 2019, $30 million was directed to Ukraine, after Congress rejected an administration request to cut the sum to $13 million. In its 2020 budget request, released in March, the administration again sought to cut the program’s spending on Ukraine to $13 million. 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. In another example, the administration sought to streamline a number of overseas democracy assistance and foreign aid accounts under one larger umbrella called the Economic Support and Development Fund. The White House believed that consolidation would cut those programs by more than $2 billion. This fund, too, is aimed at fighting corruption in countries around the world, among other goals, according to White House budget documents. Spending in Ukraine for the accounts in question was $250 million in 2018; the White House has asked for $145 million in 2020 under the new iteration of the program.” [The Washington Post, 10/23/19]
  • The Pentagon sent a letter to four congressional committees certifying that Ukraine “has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption.”
    • A Trump Administration Official Certified That Ukraine Had Taken Substantial Action To Combat Corruption. “Earlier this week, President Trump cited concerns about corruption as his rationale for blocking security assistance to Ukraine. But in a letter sent to four congressional committees in May of this year and obtained by NPR, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood informed lawmakers that he “certified that the Government of Ukraine has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption [and] increasing accountability.”” [NPR, 9/25/19]
    • John Rood Certified That Ukraine Took “Substantial Actions” To Combat Corruption. “On behalf of the Secretary of Defense and in coordination with the Secretary of State, I have certified that the Government of Ukraine has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption, increasing accountability, and sustaining improvements of combat capability enabled by U.S. assistance.” [NPR, 9/25/19]

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Impeachment HQ is a new rapid response project that serves as a resource to talkers, reporters, and activists on the impeachment proceedings.

Originally posted at Impeachment HQ. Re-posted with permission.

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Impeachment HQ is a new rapid response project that serves as a resource to talkers, reporters, and activists on the impeachment proceedings.

The new project is a joint effort from Defend the Republic, a messaging and strategic communications project focused on holding the Trump Administration accountable, and Stand Up America, one of the country’s largest grassroots advocacy organizations and a key group driving grassroots action on impeachment.

The project is led by Zac Petkanas, who was previously the Director of Rapid Response for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, Communications Director to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senior Adviser to the Democratic National Committee.

The project is also supported by communicators, campaigners, and researchers from both Defend the Republic and Stand Up America—including Ryan Thomas, the Press Secretary for Stand Up America, who leads the communications team.

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