Oct 23, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Reports: Ukraine felt early Trump pressure and knew of military aid freeze

Zelensky and Trump

Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting, Sept. 25. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

A pair of anonymously sourced reports published Wednesday indicate that the Ukrainian government felt pressure from the Trump administration to pursue investigations into the president's political rivals in the U.S. earlier than previously known.

Driving the news: AP reports that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with advisers on May 7 to discuss how to navigate requests from Trump and Rudy Giuliani that would effectively push Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential election. The New York Times reports that high-level Ukrainian officials were aware that Trump was withholding nearly $400 million in military aid by August, and that they were told to reach out to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to address it.

Why it matters: Zelensky's May 7 meeting came two weeks before he was inaugurated and more than two months before the July 25 phone call with Trump that set off the whistleblower complaint and ensuing impeachment inquiry.

  • The fact that officials knew about the aid freeze by August, if true, would undermine the argument by Trump and his allies that the Ukrainians could not have been bullied into opening these investigations because they weren't aware that security assistance was being withheld.

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