Trump Misquotes Ukrainian President in Latest Impeachment Defense

Trump Misquotes Ukrainian President in Latest Impeachment Defense

What Was Said

“Breaking News: The President of Ukraine has just again announced that President Trump has done nothing wrong with respect to Ukraine and our interactions or calls. If the Radical Left Democrats were sane, which they are not, it would be case over!”
— President Trump, in a tweet on Monday morning

“The Ukrainian president came out and said very strongly that President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong. That should be case over.”
— Mr. Trump in remarks to reporters on Monday morning

This is misleading. Mr. Trump was most likely referring to — and distorting — comments President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made in an interview with Time magazine and other publications published early Monday morning. Nowhere in the interview did Mr. Zelensky say that his American counterpart did “nothing wrong.” In fact, he criticized Mr. Trump’s comments about corruption in Ukraine and his decision to suspend military aid to Kyiv.

Though he said there had been no discussion of a quid pro quo in their conversations, Mr. Zelensky questioned the United States’ decision to freeze the aid, which he said was a matter of “fairness.”

“Look, I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing,” Mr. Zelensky said. “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.”

Mr. Zelensky also pushed back on Mr. Trump’s repeated characterization of Ukraine as hopelessly corrupt, noting that such a narrative undermines international support for the country.

“When America says, for instance, that Ukraine is a corrupt country, that is the hardest of signals,” Mr. Zelensky said. “Everyone hears that signal. Investments, banks, stakeholders, companies, American, European, companies that have international capital in Ukraine — it’s a signal to them that says, ‘Be careful, don’t invest.’ Or, ‘Get out of there.’ This is a hard signal.”

Since the White House released a reconstructed transcript of the July 25 phone call between the two presidents, Mr. Zelensky has repeatedly denied that he felt pressured by Mr. Trump and has repeatedly stated his unwillingness to get involved in American politics.

“I was never pressured, and there were no conditions being imposed,” he said in October to Kyodo, a Japanese news service, adding that “Ukraine must not be embroiled in scandals connected with the presidential election.”

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