Rand Paul says Trump has 'every right' to withhold Ukraine aid over corruption

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff Paul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump Graham on impeachment trial: 'End this crap as quickly as possible' MORE (R-Ky.), a vocal ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE, on Sunday dismissed allegations that the White House committed a quid pro quo in its dealings with Ukraine, arguing that the president has "every right" to withhold aid from a country where he believes corruption is taking place. 

"I think we've gotten lost in this whole idea of quid pro quo," Paul said on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Sunday. "If you're not allowed to give aid to people who are corrupt, there's always contingencies on aid. Presidents since the beginning of time have resisted Congress and there's been this sort of back and forth jockeying over what is sent. But also, presidents have withheld aid before for corruption. I think it's a mistake to say, 'Oh, he withheld aid until he got what he wanted.' "

"Well, if it's corruption and he believes there to be corruption, he has every right to withhold aid," Paul added.  

The comments from Paul follow a week in which transcripts from depositions in the House impeachment inquiry showed multiple administration officials saying they believed Trump tied military aid to Ukraine to the nation opening investigations into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden alleges Sanders campaign 'doctored video' to attack him on Social Security record Sanders campaign responds to Biden doctored video claims: Biden should 'stop trying to doctor' public record Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger pens op-ed in defense of Biden: 'I stuttered once, too. I dare you to mock me' MORE and the 2016 election.

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For example, revised testimony from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, showed that he recalled a September meeting with a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he conditioned military aid on a public statement about the probes. 

“After that large meeting, I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, where I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks,” Sondland said of Andriy Yermak, an adviser to Zelensky. 

Trump has asserted that his move to withhold aid was part of an effort to tackle corruption in Ukraine.

The White House has also fiercely denied claims of a quid pro quo. Following the release of transcripts pertaining to Sondland and former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP chairmen seek interview with Obama officials as part of Biden-Ukraine probe Push to investigate Bidens sets up potential for Senate turf war Senate confirms Brouillette to replace Perry as Energy secretary MORE's testimony, White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamHill.TV's Saagar Enjeti on impeachment: 'CNN can see through this nonsense' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Senate receives impeachment articles as trial opens Republicans criticize Pelosi for gifting pens used to sign impeachment articles MORE said the documents showed Trump did "nothing wrong." 

“These transcripts are actually ... good for the president,” she added. 

Paul said Sunday that he wouldn't push the argument that the White House is making. 

"I would make the argument that every politician in Washington is trying to manipulate Ukraine to their purposes. They’re all doing it," he said. 

House Democrats in September launched an impeachment inquiry into allegations that Trump pushed Ukraine into opening investigations into Biden and the 2016 election. The inquiry is centered around a government whistleblower complaint that is largely based on Trump's July 25 phone call with Zelensky. 

Several current and former administration officials have corroborated the whistleblower's account in closed-door testimony. 

Paul is one of many Republicans who have strongly denounced how Democrats have handled the impeachment inquiry. His statements also echo talking points used by other GOP senators. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Parnas pressure grows on Senate GOP Senate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-S.C.) last week questioned whether a quid pro quo was an impeachable offense, saying that "we put conditions on aid all the time." 

"But if you said I’m not going to give you money unless you investigate my political opponent to help me politically, that would be completely out of bounds," he said. 

Appearing on CNN on Sunday, Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHillicon Valley: Barr asks Apple to unlock Pensacola shooter's phone | Tech industry rallies behind Google in Supreme Court fight | Congress struggles to set rules for cyber warfare with Iran | Blog site Boing Boing hacked Congress struggles on rules for cyber warfare with Iran Senators set for briefing on cyber threats from Iran MORE (R-Wis.) also argued that Trump's push to withhold aid from Ukraine resulted from his perception that Ukrainian officials may be corrupt.