Rand Paul says Trump has ‘every right’ to withhold Ukraine aid over corruption | TheHill

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFacebook, YouTube to remove ‘any and all’ mention of potential whistleblower’s name Hill editor-in-chief: Hunter Biden investigation only a ‘matter of time’ Ukraine whistleblower under fire — Where are the first responders? MORE (R-Ky.), a vocal ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer National Security Adviser John Bolton gets book deal: report Trump administration proposes fee for asylum applications, spike in other immigration fees Biden expresses shock that Trump considers attending Russia May Day event MORE, on Sunday dismissed allegations that the White House committed a quid pro quo in its dealings with Ukraine, arguing that the president has “every right” to withhold aid from a country where he believes corruption is taking place. 

“I think we’ve gotten lost in this whole idea of quid pro quo,” Paul said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday. “If you’re not allowed to give aid to people who are corrupt, there’s always contingencies on aid. Presidents since the beginning of time have resisted Congress and there’s been this sort of back and forth jockeying over what is sent. But also, presidents have withheld aid before for corruption. I think it’s a mistake to say, ‘Oh, he withheld aid until he got what he wanted.‘ “

“Well, if it’s corruption and he believes there to be corruption, he has every right to withhold aid,” Paul added.  

WATCH: @SenRandPaul says “it is a big mistake for anybody to argue quid pro quo,” and “there is always contingencies on aid” #MTP

“Every politician in Washington other than me, virtually, is trying to manipulate Ukraine to their purposes” pic.twitter.com/fVGR8D2UKY

— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) November 10, 2019

The comments from Paul follow a week in which transcripts from depositions in the House impeachment inquiry showed multiple administration officials saying they believed Trump tied military aid to Ukraine to the nation opening investigations into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDecember Democratic debate venue switched to Loyola Marymount University Biden expresses shock that Trump considers attending Russia May Day event Strategists say Warren ‘Medicare for All’ plan could appeal to centrists MORE and the 2016 election.

For example, revised testimony from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, showed that he recalled a September meeting with a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he conditioned military aid on a public statement about the probes. 

“After that large meeting, I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, where I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks,” Sondland said of Andriy Yermak, an adviser to Zelensky. 

Trump has asserted that his move to withhold aid was part of an effort to tackle corruption in Ukraine.

The White House has also fiercely denied claims of a quid pro quo. Following the release of transcripts pertaining to Sondland and former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerTrump says that he will ‘probably’ release transcript from April phone call with Zelensky Tuesday House Republicans add Hunter Biden, whistleblower to impeachment hearing witness wish list Key impeachment witnesses to know as public hearings begin MORE‘s testimony, White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamThe Hill’s 12: 30 Report: Trump says Dems shouldn’t hold public hearings Trump to host Bulgarian prime minister at the White House New book by anonymous op-ed author details difficulties staff had in briefing Trump MORE said the documents showed Trump did “nothing wrong.” 

“These transcripts are actually … good for the president,” she added. 

Paul said Sunday that he wouldn’t push the argument that the White House is making. 

“I would make the argument that every politician in Washington is trying to manipulate Ukraine to their purposes. They’re all doing it,” he said. 

House Democrats in September launched an impeachment inquiry into allegations that Trump pushed Ukraine into opening investigations into Biden and the 2016 election. The inquiry is centered around a government whistleblower complaint that is largely based on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky. 

Several current and former administration officials have corroborated the whistleblower’s account in closed-door testimony. 

Paul is one of many Republicans who have strongly denounced how Democrats have handled the impeachment inquiry. His statements also echo talking points used by other GOP senators. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Facebook, YouTube to remove ‘any and all’ mention of potential whistleblower’s name Hill editor-in-chief: Hunter Biden investigation only a ‘matter of time’ MORE (R-S.C.) last week questioned whether a quid pro quo was an impeachable offense, saying that “we put conditions on aid all the time.” 

“But if you said I’m not going to give you money unless you investigate my political opponent to help me politically, that would be completely out of bounds,” he said. 

Appearing on CNN on Sunday, Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonEleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions’s comeback bid Trump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden GOP senators press State Department for Hunter Biden, Burisma records MORE (R-Wis.) also argued that Trump’s push to withhold aid from Ukraine resulted from his perception that Ukrainian officials may be corrupt.  

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