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

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Health Care: 50 million coronavirus vaccines given | Pfizer news | Biden health nominees Rand Paul criticized for questioning of transgender health nominee Haley isolated after Trump fallout MORE (R-Ky.), a vocal ally of President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged 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 BidenHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike Biden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot 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 senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial MORE's testimony, White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamMelania Trump says she was 'disappointed and disheartened' watching Capitol riots Trump resignations gaining steam GOP senators urging Trump officials to not resign after Capitol chaos 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 GrahamOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents John Boehner tells Cruz to 'go f--- yourself' in unscripted audiobook asides: report 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 JohnsonGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents Partisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission Cruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director MORE (R-Wis.) also argued that Trump's push to withhold aid from Ukraine resulted from his perception that Ukrainian officials may be corrupt.