The lead headline in today’s Washington Post (paper edition) proclaims: “Foes of Ukraine swayed Trump.” Just below this headline, we are informed that “Putin, Orban urged a hostile view; leaders fed corruption narrative, U.S. officials say.” The Post’s story is here.
Just a few days ago, however, the Post paid glowing tribute to Joe Biden’s “brawling efforts” to combat corruption in Ukraine. Clearly, Ukrainian corruption is real and serious, not the invention of its enemies.
Is it possible that Biden’s “brawling” rooted out all serious corruption in Ukraine? No, it isn’t. Even his boosters at the Post don’t make such a ridiculous claim.
Thus, Trump didn’t need Putin or Orban to “sway” him into believing that there is a corruption problem in Ukraine. I don’t doubt that, in his effort to keep the administration from aiding Ukraine, Putin reminded Trump of the corruption problem. But there is no reason to believe that Putin swayed Trump. And, of course, the U.S. ultimately provided Ukraine with the military aid in question.
I wonder whether it dawned on any of the four authors of the Post’s story that there’s a tension between their claim that Putin swayed Trump and the notion that Trump withheld aid in order to harm his political enemies.
Trump’s line is that he didn’t want to provide money to Ukraine without some level of confidence that it wouldn’t be swallowed up by corruption. The Democrats’ line (and the Post’s) is that corruption is a pretext — that Trump didn’t withhold aid to combat it, or even to do Putin’s bidding, but rather to coerce Ukraine into investigating the Bidens and the DNC.
If Putin really did cause Trump to worry about Ukrainian corruption, this tends to support Trump’s contention that the withholding of aid was about corruption, not about undermining Democrats.
Perhaps one or more of the Post’s authors understood this tension at some level. If so, the temptation to flog the “Trump is a tool of Putin” narrative overcame reluctance to depart slightly from the “Trump used military aid to screw his domestic political opponents” line.
With all of the anti-Trump narratives out there, sometimes it’s difficult to keep them straight.