Maybe there was a quid pro no? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down with Fox News Channel’s Martha MacCallum to address reports that some mentions of the Bidens had been excised from the transcript of the call between Donald Trump and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky. Pompeo continued to insist that he never heard anything approaching a quid pro quo on the call, calling the conversation “appropriate” at all times.
Plus, Pompeo added, Trump actually sent key weapons systems to Ukraine. Why didn’t Barack Obama? Was it because of you know who?
POMPEO: What I know is I was on the call, I listened to the call. I thought the way the president handled it was appropriate. We were incredibly focused on a couple of simple things with respect to Ukraine strategy. And we’ve executed on that. And don’t forget, Martha, this is the administration that provided defensive weapon systems to Ukraine. The previous administration —
MACCALLUM: That’s true.
POMPEO: — I couldn’t tell you why, I couldn’t answer if it’s because of Hunter Biden, that Barack Obama and Vice President Biden didn’t give weapons to Ukraine. They’ll have to answer for that. Maybe — maybe I just don’t have the full story.
The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake calls this Pompeo’s “own Biden-related conspiracy theory,” and isn’t quite sure to what Pompeo refers:
Perhaps he didn’t really mean to say what he just said, and he was just trying to make a point about how inexplicable it was that the Obama administration didn’t do as much to arm Ukraine as he thinks it should have. But that’s a pretty extraordinary suggestion to make. He’s entertaining the idea that the Obama administration might have withheld weapons systems from Ukraine because of Hunter Biden’s employment at a Ukrainian energy company?
I asked the State Department what Pompeo might have been referring to. It didn’t immediately respond.
I suspect Pompeo is referring here in part to Joe Biden’s own claims about his dealings with Ukraine. Last year, Biden claimed that he’d held up a billion dollars in aid to get their general prosecutor fired. However, that’s not the whole story either:
BIDEN: Well, I was, not I, but it just happened to be that was the assignment I got. I got all the good ones. And so I got Ukraine. And I remember going over convincing our team, our, others to convincing that we should be providing for loan guarantees. And I went over, try to guess the 12th, 13th time to Kiev, and I was going to, supposed to announce that there was another billion dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor, and they didn’t. So they said they had, they were walking out to a press conference, and I said no, I said I’m not going to, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said. I said call him. I said I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said you’re not getting the billion, and I’m going to be leaving here, and I think it was what, six hours. I looked. I said I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. He got fired.
That had to do with other forms of aid than weapons systems. The Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal noted last month that the Obama administration did send weapons systems to Ukraine starting almost immediately at the beginning of their conflict with Russia, and that the military aid had a substantial impact on their defenses. Emphases mine::
In particular, the 20 Lockheed Martin AN/TPQ-53 counter-battery radar systems the U.S. sent Ukraine in 2015 had a positive impact on the survivability of Ukrainian units using the system; their casualty rates dropped from 47% to about 18%, Ukrainian officials say. …
“U.S. military personnel’s training of our soldiers and officers … is priceless, too. It simply educates a new generation of Western-minded officers not corrupted by worm-eaten, old Soviet practices that brought us to the brink of disaster in 2014,” said Ponomarenko.
Ongoing since 2015, the U.S.-led training operation has helped Ukraine’s military ditch its strict, top-down chain of command culture—a carryover from the Soviet military, in which front-line soldiers are hamstrung by the need to receive direct orders from commanders to take action.
It is true, however, that the Trump administration approved the sale of some systems that Ukraine had been seeking since the start of the conflict. Chief among those are anti-tank systems that Russia particularly opposes for obvious reasons:
Since the outset of Russia’s hybrid war in 2014, Ukrainian officials had been soliciting America for lethal weaponry—the Javelin anti-tank missile in particular—as a way both to defend itself from Russian aggression on the battlefields of the Donbas and to deter Moscow from future offensives. Even so, former President Barack Obama never approved the move, ostensibly due to fears of escalating the conflict by sparking a tit-for-tat arms race with Russia.
In December 2017, however, Trump approved a $41.5 million deal for Tennessee-based Barrett Firearms Manufacturing to sell Model M107A1 sniper rifles, ammunition, and accessories to Ukraine. Days later, the Trump administration green-lighted a Javelin weapons package for Ukraine reportedly worth $47 million, comprising 210 anti-tank missiles and 37 launchers.
That’s what Pompeo meant in that exchange with MacCallum. The Obama administration didn’t ever act on the Javelin purchase request. Was it because Obama didn’t want to anger Russia and Vladimir Putin, with whom he was working on the Iran deal and a new nuclear-arms pact? Or was it because Joe Biden, who was handling Ukraine matters for the administration, was withholding it for leverage to benefit his son? That’s not as conspiratorial as Blake would make it sound — in fact, it’s no more conspiratorial than the same basic theory being applied in Ukraine-Gate against Trump today.
That’s especially true when one notes that no one has yet turned up a quid pro quo demand from Trump yet. Pompeo does get a bit cagey when asked about the edits to the Trump-Zelensky transcript, though:
MACCALLUM: He says that there were things that were deleted from the transcript of the call that were specifically about the Bidens and about Burisma, investigating both of those. And he claims that there was quid quo pro for a White House meeting and for the aid to be released to Ukraine. You were on that call, as well. Do you agree with him that those items were not part of the transcript, but they were part of that phone call?
POMPEO: Well, I don’t know what any of the witnesses have actually said. We’re now reporting on the leaks from Democrats who have a mission set here to take down President Trump. What I know is I was on the call, I listened to the call. I thought the way the president handled it was appropriate.
Pompeo must either know nothing untoward happened, or at the very least nothing exists to prove it did. We’ll hear soon enough what Tim Morrison had to say about this at the regularly scheduled 12:15 pm ET selective leak conference.