Challenging White House Claim that Holding Up U.S. Aid to Ukraine was “Normal

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, lead his colleagues in submitting a question Jan. 30 during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump specific to the White House legal team’s false claim that the president’s act to withhold congressionally-approved U.S. security assistance to Ukraine was “normal” or “done all the time.”

“The resident’s aides and defenders have claimed that it is ‘normal’ or ‘usual’ to use U.S. foreign assistance as the president did to achieve a desired outcome. How was the president’s act in withholding U.S. security assistance to Ukraine different from how the U.S. uses foreign assistance to achieve foreign policy goals and national security objectives?,” asked Carper. “And, how should we evaluate the defense argument that this is what is ‘done all the time?’”

“So to understand the answer to this, you don’t have to look inside the president’s mind,” said Rep. Jason Crow, D-Wisconsin, on behalf of the House managers. “You just have to look at recent history and then what was done last year. As I talked about earlier and even yesterday, other Presidents have held holds on aid for legitimate reasons. Even this president — we concede that. We concede that there are a variety of legitimate policy reasons for holding aid, whether it be corruption or burden sharing. See even the president’s other holds, like on Afghanistan because of concerns about terrorism or Central America because of immigration concerns even though some might disagree with that — that is a legitimate policy debate. The difference here is that every witness testified — these 17 witnesses that you hear about — testified that there was no reason provided for the implementation of this hold. I talked about earlier how there is a process for doing this. There is a well prescribed process for allocating the funds like we all did in this chamber — that 87 of you agreed on. And there’s an interagency process to review it to make sure that it meets the standard criteria outlined by this body — anti-corruption reforms. And that was done in this case. That interagency process was followed. That certification was made. That notification to Congress was conducted. The train had left the station just like the train had left the station in 2018, in 2017, in 2016 and every element of the agencies and the bureaucracy involved in that process in prior years had been engaged and had signed off. Except this year, in 2019 rather, that all changed. A hold was implemented for no known reason, there was no notification given to Congress, which violated the Impoundment Control Act — DoD, Department of State, Secretary Esper, Secretary Pompeo, even Vice President Pence and the entire National Security Council implored the president to release the aid because it had not only met all of the certifications, but it was in the U.S. national interest and consistent with U.S. policy and yet nobody knew why it happened. And to this day, the individual who could shed light on this, Mr. Bolton, is being prohibited from coming forward to explain why the President told him it happened. So yes, it is still a good time to subpoena Ambassador Bolton and get that information.”