Examining Trump’s Claims About Democrats and Ukraine

What President Trump Said

President Trump was referring to statements made by Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, during a congressional hearing last week about the July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and the president of Ukraine. That call is part of a whistle-blower complaint that led Democrats to begin an impeachment hearing.

Mr. Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, did not claim to be reciting from the reconstructed transcript of the call and said he was conferring “the essence” of the conversation, “shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words.” But he did speak in first person, leaving an impression that he was quoting Mr. Trump.

Later in the hearing, Mr. Schiff said that his “summary of the president’s call was meant to be at least part in parody.” Mr. Schiff described Mr. Trump’s side of the call as a “classic organized crime shakedown.” His account veered from the transcript in chronology and details at points, and seemed intended to put additional attention on the implication that Mr. Trump was demanding something from Ukraine in return for the assistance the United States had provided the country, but it generally tracked with the transcript’s version of what Mr. Trump said on the call.

First, Mr. Schiff said President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine expressed “his interest in meeting with the president and says his country wants to acquire more weapons from us to defend itself.”

The transcript, which was not verbatim and contained several ellipses, does show Mr. Zelensky saying Ukraine is “almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.” Later in the call — not before Mr. Trump spoke, as Mr. Schiff suggested — Mr. Zelensky thanked Mr. Trump for his invitation to visit Washington and said he was hopeful for a future meeting.

Then, according to Mr. Schiff, Mr. Trump essentially responded, “We’ve been very good to your country, very good. No other country has done as much as we have, but you know what, I don’t see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though.”

This is supported by the transcript in which Mr. Trump is quoted as saying the United States does “much more than the European countries are doing.”

What Mr. Trump Said

“And it got almost no attention, but in May, CNN reported that Senators Robert Menendez, Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy wrote a letter to Ukraine’s prosecutor general expressing concern at the closing of four investigations they said were ‘critical.’ In the letter, they implied that their support for U.S. assistance to Ukraine was at stake and that if they didn’t do the right thing, they wouldn’t get any assistance. Gee, doesn’t that sound familiar? Doesn’t that sound familiar?”
— at a news conference on Sept. 25

The three Democratic senators did write a letter to Yuriy Lutsenko, then Ukraine’s prosecutor general, in May 2018. Mr. Trump’s claim of an implied ultimatum is a matter of interpretation, but the letter does not include an overt threat of withholding foreign aid if Ukrainian officials “didn’t do the right thing.”

In the letter, the senators expressed concerns over a New York Times report that Mr. Lutsenko’s office had frozen investigations related to the special counsel investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III because officials were wary of offending Mr. Trump. They also asked Mr. Lutsenko three questions about Ukraine’s cooperation with Mr. Mueller and whether Mr. Trump or his aides had tried to impede any cooperation.

“As strong advocates for a robust and close relationship with Ukraine, we believe that our cooperation should extend to such legal matters, regardless of politics,” they wrote, adding, “If these reports are true, we strongly encourage you to reverse course.”

The only direct mention of foreign aid was in relation to The Times’ reporting about the limited cooperation with Mr. Mueller’s investigation: “The article notes that your office considered these cases as too politically sensitive and potentially jeopardizing U.S. financial and military aid to Ukraine.”

What Mr. Trump Said

“Chris Murphy literally threatened the President of Ukraine that, if he doesn’t do things right, they won’t have Democrat support in Congress. So you’re going to look all of this up.”
at a news conference on Sept. 25

Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democratic of Connecticut, met with Mr. Zelensky in Ukraine this month as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation.

In interviews this month, Mr. Murphy has said he advised Mr. Zelensky against investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. based on political pressure from Mr. Trump’s aides and allies. He also noted that Mr. Zelensky was worried about the suspension of foreign aid.

The Times reported on Sept. 9 that Mr. Murphy “said he urged Mr. Zelensky not to heed the requests from Mr. Giuliani, warning that to do so could threaten bipartisan support for Ukraine in Washington.”

“So I went there to make it clear to him that the worst thing that he could do for the U.S.-Ukraine relationship was to get involved in an election here in the United States,” Mr. Murphy said in a Sept. 22 appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

In a statement responding to Mr. Trump’s claim, Mr. Murphy said his position was unchanged: “In the meeting Republican Senator Ron Johnson and I had with President Zelensky three weeks ago, I made it clear to him that Ukraine should not become involved in the 2020 election and that his government should communicate with the State Department, not the president’s campaign. I still believe this to be true.”

What Mr. Trump Said

“I gave you anti-tank busters that — frankly, President Obama was sending you pillows and sheets. And I gave you anti-tank busters.”
— in a news conference on Sept. 25

The Trump administration in 2018 approved the sale of anti-tank missiles and launch units to Ukraine in 2018.

While President Barack Obama declined to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons, his administration did approve of other forms of military aid, which Mr. Trump dismissed as “pillows and sheets.”

Between the 2014 and 2016 fiscal years, the United States committed more than $600 million in security assistance to Ukraine, according to the Congressional Research Service. That included “counterartillery and countermortar radars, secure communications, training aids, logistics infrastructure and I.T. systems, tactical U.A.V.s and medical equipment.”

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