Giving further credibility to Rep. Adam Schiff’s argument that Donald Trump only released military aid to Ukraine after getting caught, The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the president was briefed on the whistleblower complaint before he unfroze the money.
According to the report, “President Trump had already been briefed on a whistle-blower’s complaint about his dealings with Ukraine when he unfroze military aid for the country in September, according to two people familiar with the matter.”
The report notes that Trump learned of the complaint in August.
More from The New York Times:
Lawyers from the White House counsel’s office told Mr. Trump in late August about the complaint, explaining that they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to Congress, the people said.
The revelation could shed light on Mr. Trump’s thinking at two critical points under scrutiny by impeachment investigators: his decision in early September to release $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine and his denial to a key ambassador around the same time that there was a “quid pro quo” with Kyiv. Mr. Trump used the phrase before it had entered the public lexicon in the Ukraine affair.
Mr. Trump faced bipartisan pressure from Congress when he released the aid. But the new timing detail shows that he was also aware at the time that the whistle-blower had accused him of wrongdoing in withholding the aid and in his broader campaign to pressure Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to conduct investigations that could benefit Mr. Trump’s re-election chances.
Another GOP impeachment defense dies a painful death
One of the pillars of the GOP impeachment defense is that Trump couldn’t have possibly done anything wrong since Ukraine ultimately got the military aid they desperately needed without announcing an investigation into Joe Biden.
Of course, this argument has always been ludicrous. Attempting a crime – like, say, murder or robbery – is still a crime. Bribing a foreign power for political dirt is still an impeachable offense, even if the president backtracked mid-crime due to a whistleblower sounding the alarm.
Republicans will continue to lean on the fact that Trump did eventually unfreeze military aid for Ukraine, but Tuesday’s reporting shows that he only did it because he got caught.