On support for Ukraine, extra $140 million draws scrutiny

Updated

It didn’t cause much of a stir at the time, but the Associated Press ran a report two weeks ago that may be relevant anew. It noted that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced at a conference that the United States had released $250 million in military aid – with an additional $140 million on top of that sum.

The Trump administration said Thursday [Sept. 12] that it has released $250 million in military aid to Ukraine that had been held up. It didn’t mention additional funds.

Zelenskiy’s deputy chief of staff Kirill Tymoshenko confirmed to The Associated Press after the president’s speech that Ukraine is indeed expecting an extra $140 million from the U.S., but he wouldn’t give detail on the source or designation of the funds.

There may very well be nothing to this, but it was a curious series of events. The Trump administration was supposed to give Ukraine $250 million, but that money was on hold when the American president spoke via phone to his Ukrainian counterpart – a conversation in which Trump reportedly pressed Zelenskiy eight times about investigating Biden.

Soon after learning that the military aid was on hold, the editorial board of the Washington Post published a piece alleging that the Republican was effectively trying to “extort” Ukraine, making the $250 million contingent on Kyiv agreeing to participate in Trump’s political scheme.

Soon after, in the face of bipartisan congressional pushback, the Trump administration agreed to release the aid to Ukraine – though according to the Associated Press, the package was worth $390 million, not $250 million. This, of course, came shortly before House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) exposed the existence of the whistleblower’s complaint to the intelligence community’s inspector general.

On Meet the Press yesterday, NBC News’ Chuck Todd asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin where the extra $140 million came from. From the transcript:

MNUCHIN: Well, it was appropriated money that came through the State Department.

TODD: [Ukrainians] didn’t know they were getting this money. Is there any indication why they got the money when they did?

MNUCHIN: I’m not sure it’s correct for you to say they didn’t know they got the money. –

TODD: The president said he was surprised to get it. The president of Ukraine said he was surprised to get an additional $140 million. He said it was a pleasant surprise but that he was surprised.

MNUCHIN: I think he was referring to his expectations, as opposed to necessarily a surprise. But you’re getting into details.

Well, yeah, I suppose so. But don’t the details matter?