At a White House event a couple of weeks ago, Donald Trump commented on the military aid package to Ukraine -- the one he blocked as part of an illegal extortion scheme -- and used a familiar phrase.
"[B]y the way, in terms of the money, it got there two or three weeks ahead of schedule -- long before it was supposed to be there," the president claimed. "There was absolutely nothing done wrong." He echoed the point again yesterday, telling reporters, in reference to officials in Kyiv, "They got their money long before schedule."
There are a couple of key elements to this that are worth keeping in mind. The first is that Trump's claims are ridiculously untrue. As the New York Times recently explained:
The 2019 federal fiscal year ended on Sept. 30, the date by which all appropriated aid to Ukraine was supposed to be disbursed. But because of the freeze ordered by Mr. Trump, not all of the aid was spent before the deadline.
Congress had appropriated $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine -- $250 million from the Pentagon and $141 million from the State Department -- meant to be spent by the end of September. Though the Pentagon announced its plans to provide the aid in June, White House officials blocked its release in July. It remained frozen until mid-September, when Mr. Trump relented after pressure from lawmakers and administration officials.
The second angle of note is that whenever Trump says something -- anything, really -- is "ahead of schedule," it's a near certainty he's making stuff up.
As regular readers may recall, it's become a curious staple of his presidency. Roughly a year into his term, Trump spoke at a religious right gathering where he boasted, "I didn't have a schedule, but if I did have a schedule, I would say we are substantially ahead of schedule."
It's a phrase he embraced with great enthusiasm and without regard for accuracy. Before adding an inch of border barriers, for example, Trump told supporters, "We're building the wall.... Way ahead of schedule, way ahead of schedule. Way, way, way ahead of schedule."
The president added that his plans to overhaul veterans' care were "ahead of schedule." He insisted that his proposed changes to U.S. education policy were "ahead of schedule." Before the Republican tax plan even existed, Trump assured the public that his plan was "actually ahead of schedule."
None of these claims were true, but they seemed to make him feel better.
It's a bit like when Trump tells stories about unnamed crying men, calling him "sir," and expressing their undying love for him: when we hear the phrase "ahead of schedule," it's best to be skeptical.
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