Trump is still holding $20 million of Ukraine aid hostage, making it harder to defend him in trial

Since the news broke in September that Donald Trump froze hundreds of millions in U.S. aid to Ukraine, in an apparent effort to force its government to investigate his political opponents, a key talking point by his defenders has been that the money was ultimately paid. But a new report makes it clear that is not entirely true.

The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that about $20.2 million of the roughly $400 million appropriated as military aid to the former Soviet republic has still not been sent.

A Pentagon spokesperson told the paper the remaining funds "will be implemented as quickly as possible in accordance with contracting procedures and applicable law" and blamed the delays on a requirement that they "reach out to prospective vendors to obtain updated pricing data." However, Senate staffers disputed that claim, telling the Times that the law did not require the Department of Defense to essentially restart the aid contracts.

Still, repeatedly, Trump's administration and his defenders in Congress have falsely claimed there could not have been a quid pro quo because Trump paid Ukraine all of the money Congress appropriated without receiving political dirt in return.

Asked if the military aid had been held up, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told CNN, "I don't know, but they've got their aid."

"They have the aid, they're using the aid," Conway repeated. "Here's what's unimpeachably true: Ukraine has that aid, they're using the aid."

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) made a similar claim at Thursday's impeachment hearing. "They got the money on Sept. 11," he said. "That's what happened. You can make up all the things you want, but those are not the facts."

Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) said in October that as long as all the money was delivered to the Ukraine, Trump could not see any "high crime or misdemeanor" or "impeachable offense."

"If this is about quid pro quo, there’s no quid in the quid pro quo if Ukraine ultimately received the aid, which they did," he said.

Last month, the Times reported that $35.2 million of the delayed Ukraine aid still remained unpaid.

But that did not stop pro-Trump lawmakers from pretending the proverbial check was in the mail. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR), Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), and several others have also made the claim in recent weeks that the fact the aid was fully delivered exonerates Trump.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation. Attribution: Josh Israel.