Donald Trump this morning turned to Twitter to announce what the president described as “breaking news.” According to the Republican’s missive, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “has just again announced that President Trump has done nothing wrong with respect to Ukraine and our interactions or calls.”
The American added, “If the Radical Left Democrats were sane, which they are not, it would be case over!”
I was all set to explain, once again, that Zelensky’s assessments of Trump’s misdeeds aren’t altogether relevant to the impeachment inquiry. After all, it’s not as if the Ukrainian leader is in a position to publicly condemn Trump as guilty – especially with a Republican-led Senate unlikely to remove the American president from office.
But then I read Zelensky’s interview with a group of international journalists, including a reporter from Time magazine, and it quickly became obvious that the Ukrainian president did not say what Trump claimed he said.
Q: When did you first sense that there was a connection between Trump’s decision to block military aid to Ukraine this summer and the two investigations that Trump and his allies were asking for? Can you clarify this issue of the quid pro quo?
ZELENSKY: Look, I never talked to the President from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing. … I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.
Far from exonerating Trump, that sounded like the Ukrainian president was criticizing Trump for withholding U.S. military aid for our vulnerable ally.
In the same interview, the Ukrainian president also took aim at Trump’s rhetoric about Ukrainian “corruption” – Zelensky believes Trump’s claims undermined Ukraine in the eyes of international observers and investors – before concluding, “I don’t trust anyone at all.”
It’s not just a reminder that Trump’s tweets are not to be accepted at face value; it’s also evidence of a Ukrainian president making his dissatisfaction with Trump known for the first time.