President Donald Trump admitted on Monday morning that he told Ukraine’s president that the U.S. would withhold $250 million in military aid for Ukraine because of “corruption”—an apparent reference to efforts to dig up dirt on the role Joe Biden and his son Hunter are alleged to have played in Ukraine several years back.
“Well, you’re going to see because what we are doing is we want honesty and I think with the new president you’re going to see much more honesty in the Ukraine and that’s what we’re looking for,” Trump told reporters in New York City. “We want to make sure that country is honest. It’s very important to talk about corruption. If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?”
Trump’s admission is a massive upping of the stakes of a deeply controversial saga surrounding his presidency.
In the past week, news reports have revealed that in a recent phone call, Trump pressed the new Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate whether Joe Biden intervened on his son’s behalf to fire a prosecutor who was allegedly being harmful to his business interests. News reports have shown that Biden did not play such a role.
Trump, nevertheless, has insisted that there is more to the story. And, behind the scenes, he and his top adviser, Rudy Giuliani, have encouraged the new Ukraine leadership to keep digging into the allegation. Questions have surrounded whether the president sat for months on the security aid—which has been given annually since the Russian invasion of Crimea—in order to compel Zelensky to act.
On Monday, Trump admitted he had done just that. Earlier in the day, Giuliani had said he could not be “100 percent” certain that Trump didn’t threaten to cut off military aid.
Trump’s call with Zelensky is reportedly the subject of a whistleblower complaint from an anonymous intelligence official, the content of which has yet to become public.