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

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Trump: 'Everybody knows who the whistleblower is' Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens MORE (R-Ky.), a vocal ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election 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 BidenBudget official says he didn't know why military aid was delayed: report Growing 2020 field underscores Democratic divide READ: Foreign service officer Jennifer Williams' closed-door testimony from the House impeachment inquiry 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 VolkerWhite House releases rough transcript of early Trump-Ukraine call minutes before impeachment hearing Haley: Giuliani should've been named 'special envoy' to Ukraine Overnight Energy: Perry replacement faces Ukraine questions at hearing | Dem chair demands answers over land agency's relocation | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders unveil 0B Green New Deal public housing plan MORE's testimony, White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamTrump undergoes 'portions' of annual physical exam Trump opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Trump grants pardons to two service members in war-crimes cases 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 GrahamGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens 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 JohnsonGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy White House releases rough transcript of early Trump-Ukraine call minutes before impeachment hearing Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens MORE (R-Wis.) also argued that Trump's push to withhold aid from Ukraine resulted from his perception that Ukrainian officials may be corrupt.