A centerpiece of President Trump’s defense is that he was doing his job by asking Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden – because he was actually pressing Ukraine to crack down on corruption.
“When it comes to sending US taxpayer money overseas, the President is focused on burden-sharing and corruption,” deputy White House counsel Mike Purpura said. “… A parade of witnesses testified in the House about the pervasive corruption in Ukraine and how it is in America's foreign policy and national security interests to help Ukraine combat corruption.”
Facts First: Purpura is accurately describing the corruption situation in Ukraine, as described by many witnesses. But his other claims — that Trump sincerely cared about corruption and was acting in good faith to root it out — don’t hold up.
The House impeachment inquiry uncovered substantial evidence to undercut these explanations from Trump and his lawyers. A US diplomat testified that US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland told him that Trump does not “give a sh!t about Ukraine,” and cared more about getting Ukraine to announce the Biden investigation.
The Democratic House managers harped on these points repeatedly during their three-day presentations.
CNN fact-checked Trump in October, when he said, "This is about corruption, and this is not about politics."
Here’s a breakdown of the reasons why Trump’s claims about genuinely caring about corruption don’t make sense:
- Official government records undermine Trump's explanation.
- Trump never mentioned “corruption” on the call with Zelensky.
- Trump hasn't publicly raised corruption issues before with Ukrainians.
- Trump’s “anti-corruption” campaign is only focused on Biden.
- Trump defended Paul Manafort, who made millions from corrupt Ukrainians.
- The State Department has reduced anti-corruption spending under Trump. It spent $5 million in 2018 but only requested $3 million for 2019 and again for 2020.
- Trump has praised other leaders mired by corruption scandals.