Rand Paul calls it ‘big mistake’ for Trump defense to center on quid pro quo
Paul, a proud deficit hawk who also said he didn’t believe the U.S. had the means to provide aid to begin with, argued Trump had “every right” to order the funds frozen “if it’s corruption, and he believes there to be corruption.”
“I think it’s a mistake to say, ‘Oh, he withheld aid until he got what he wanted,’” he said, suggesting Trump’s efforts to “manipulate” Ukraine, though ugly, were par for the course in Washington.
“So I think it’s a big mistake for anybody to argue quid pro quo; he didn’t have quid pro quo. And I know that’s what the administration’s arguing. I wouldn’t make that argument. I would make the argument that every politician in Washington, other than me, virtually, is trying to manipulate Ukraine to their purposes,” Paul claimed, rattling off the names of Democratic lawmakers whom he accused of being just as guilty as Trump.
“They’re all doing it.”
He also argued that defying Congress by freezing aid it had already appropriated was not a new area of tension between the executive and legislative branches, pointing to former President Barack Obama’s refusal to provide Ukraine with “lethal aid” to deter Russian aggression. Obama faced bipartisan criticism for declining to provide arms to Ukraine, claiming the move was to avoid provoking Moscow; Trump reversed that policy upon becoming president.
Paul’s candid rejection of the White House’s defense and minimization of the question at hand overlooks the political tinge that is central to the allegations against Trump and has been backed up by testimony from administration officials.
That the president had asked his Ukrainian counterpart for one line of investigation that could damage his potential rival in the 2020 election and another he believed could exonerate him from the Russia probe that swamped the first half of his first term undermines the argument Trump was focused on corruption more broadly.