White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said on Sunday that she does not know whether U.S. military aid was withheld from Ukraine to solicit help in an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, refusing to guarantee that there was no quid pro quo at any time.
Asked directly on CNN’s “State of the Union,” whether there was “a time when military aid was held up because the president wanted Ukraine to look into the Bidens,” Conway replied that she was unsure.
“I don’t know, but I know they’ve got their aid,” she said.
Pivoting, Conway repeatedly emphasized that the funds were ultimately sent after being delayed over the summer.
“I feel confident about the fact that Ukraine has that aid and is using it right now, that it’s because of this president that they have it,” she said.
Pressed by host Dana Bash, who pointed out that Conway “very notably won’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’” on the question of whether President Donald Trump was seeking to make a deal, Conway said she wasn’t sure.
“I don’t know whether aid was being held and for how long,” she said.
The question has become central to House Democrats’ impeachment probe of Trump following the release of a summary of his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to the document, Trump urged Zelensky to assist his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr with an investigation of Biden and his son based on unsubstantiated corruption allegations. At the time of the conversation, the aid was being withheld.
Last month, The New York Times reported that high-level Ukrainian officials were aware by the first week in August that the assistance had been frozen, contradicting Trump’s claim that they were in the dark on the situation.
However, it appears the GOP may be shifting its messaging on the potential quid pro quo in order to bolster their defense of Trump.
On Friday, The Washington Post reported that Senate Republicans are gearing up to acknowledge that Trump used the aid as leverage and that while it was not legal, it is not an impeachable act.
Last week, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, testified before congressional investigators, and is thought to have provided firsthand information about Trump’s call.
According to Vindman’s prepared remarks obtained by HuffPost, he “was concerned by the call” and “did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen.” He decided to report the discussion, he said, because he felt Trump’s actions could “undermine U.S. national security.”