President Donald Trump is continuing to face the consequences of his scheme to get Ukraine to produce dirt on the Bidens. As the subsequent House Democrat-led impeachment inquiry proceeds, The New York Times has revealed that Ukraine actually knew U.S. aid meant for them was held up weeks earlier than officials from either country previously acknowledged. The timeline shift means that in rapid succession Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, Ukrainian officials learned that U.S. aid had been intentionally halted, and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani showed up to push that hoped-for Biden investigation. That’s a shakedown if there ever was one.
Apparently, the “big reveal” to the Ukrainians came via “conversations over several days in early August” when “a Pentagon official discussed the assistance freeze directly with a Ukrainian government official.” The Times explains:
‘[W]ord of the aid freeze had gotten to high-level Ukrainian officials by the first week in August… The problem was not a bureaucratic glitch, the Ukrainians were told then. To address it, they were advised, they should reach out to Mick Mulvaney… The timing… means that the Ukrainian government was aware of the freeze during most of the period in August when Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and two American diplomats were pressing President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to make a public commitment to the investigations being sought by Mr. Trump.’
Adding insult to injury, the Ukrainians were even told that the exact same official — Ukrainian presidential adviser Andriy Yermak — who had been in touch with Giuliani should reach out to Mulvaney about the aid freeze. In other words, they’d have had to be closing their eyes to miss the intent of Trump’s shakedown.
As The Times notes, Trump and some of his Republican allies in Congress have recently come up with the idea that there couldn’t have been a direct quid pro quo scheme because the Ukrainians supposedly didn’t even know about the aid hold-up while a significant portion of the behind the scenes pressure for a Biden investigation was unfolding. As it turns out, they did know about the aid hold-up, however, further condemning attempts from Trump and his allies at a defense.
Apparently, the Ukrainians were only directly told that the aid was dependent on them publicly announcing a Biden investigation on the sidelines of a September 1 summit in Warsaw including Vice President Mike Pence and Zelensky. Trump donor turned E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland was responsible for at least one of those revelations. Acting Ukraine Ambassador Bill Taylor told Congressional investigators earlier this week that Sondland had told Ukrainian officials that “everything” they wanted was dependent on that investigation, including a summit in D.C. between the Zelensky and Trump administrations.
Testimony in the impeachment inquiry is continuing this week with a private Wednesday hearing featuring Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant defense secretary areas including Ukraine. That testimony was temporarily delayed after Republicans including Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz decided to stage a stunt of barging into the secure hearing room with their electronics despite guidelines against that.