White House delayed Ukraine trade decision amid aid hold-up: report

White House officials delayed a trade agreement with Ukraine in late August, around the same time President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE was withholding security aid to the country, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The decision came after then-national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonAre Democrats building a collapsible impeachment? Live coverage: House holds first public impeachment hearing Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE warned U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerPelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House On The Money: Economy adds 164K jobs in July | Trump signs two-year budget deal, but border showdown looms | US, EU strike deal on beef exports Chinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report MORE that President Trump would likely oppose any assistance to Kiev, the Post reported. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The decision suggests the Trump administration's actions toward Ukraine went beyond holding up the $400 million in security-related aid. Trump is under scrutiny over allegations that he delayed the funds as he sought to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides MORE, a 2020 presidential contender. 

It's not clear whether Trump directed or was aware of the discussion between Bolton and Lighthizer, the Post reported.

 
A former U.S. government official told the Post that Trump's refusal to change Ukraine's trade privileges stemmed from him wanting “the total elimination” of the trade system in question.
 
The system is known as the generalized system of preferences (GSP). It gives 120 countries the ability to ship about 1.5 percent of U.S.'s total imports without paying tariffs.
 
Ukraine's GSP privileges had been suspended in December 2017 because of the country's repeated violation of U.S. intellectual property rights laws. The suspension began in May of 2018.
 
Lighthizer's recommendation on Ukraine's trade status came after Ukraine spent the past year passing laws in an effort to crack down on its rampant piracy.
 
By the time Lighthizer was ready to bring his recommendation to the president, it had already been reviewed by the State Department and the Office of Management and Budget.
 
Last month, a senior Trump administration official told the Post that the delay in the status change of Ukraine's trade privileges was due to a routine country review.
 
However, William Taylor's testimony to congressional investigators earlier in the week seems to contradict that.
 
The former top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine told House committees Tuesday that on Aug. 22, Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s top Russia official, informed him that “the president doesn’t want to provide any assistance at all,” referring to Ukraine and the U.S. aid that had been promised to the country.
 
Taylor continued, saying that on Sept. 1, Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told him that "everything" was dependent on whether or not Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would publicly announce that he would investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and accusations of Ukrainian interference during the 2016 election.