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 TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE was withholding security aid to the country, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The decision came after then-national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonJudge appears skeptical of Bolton's defense of publishing book without White House approval Maximum pressure is keeping US troops in Iraq and Syria Woodward book trails Bolton, Mary Trump in first-week sales MORE warned U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerWhiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 MORE that President Trump would likely oppose any assistance to Kiev, the Post reported. 

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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 BidenPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Fox News poll: Biden ahead of Trump in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio 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.