President Trump offered a third explanation on Tuesday for why he ordered his acting chief of staff to withhold nearly $400 million in military and other aid to Ukraine in July, just days before he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and, by his own admission, asked him to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a top Democratic challenger in 2020.
In the months between that decision and the release of the funds on Sept. 11, the White House instructed officials "to tell lawmakers that the delays were part of an 'interagency process' but to give them no additional information," The Washington Post reports. On Monday, Trump told reporters he withheld the money because of concerns about "corruption" in Ukraine, specifically mentioning Biden and his son, Hunter. On Tuesday, Trump gave this explanation:
My complaint has always been — and I'd withhold again, and I'll continue to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine. Because they're not doing it; it's the United States. We're putting up the bulk of the money. … Europe has to put up money for Ukraine also. Why is it only the United States putting up the money? … Germany, France, other countries should put up money. [President Trump]
The European Union quickly noted that over the past five years, it has "mobilized more than €15 billion [$16.5 billion] in grants and loans to support the reform process" in Ukraine. Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler agreed that "Europe has been a major funder to Ukraine since Russia annexed its Crimean Peninsula in 2014, often providing more aid than the United States."
In 2016-17, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, European institutions gave Ukraine $425.2 million, followed by the U.S. ($204.4 million), Germany ($189.8 million), Japan ($180.8 million), Canada ($44.5 million), Poland ($42.5 million), Sweden ($34.6 million), Britain ($31.6 million), and Switzerland ($29.6 million).
"At the very least, Trump's constantly changing explanations for why he delayed the aid suggest he's not being forthright about the real reason," Kessler said. He awarded Trump's statement Four Pinocchios, the Post's worst ranking — for "whoppers" — after the newly created "Bottomless Pinocchio", whose only recipient is Trump.