Washington Post: Trump administration has tried to cut billions in foreign aid to fight corruption despite calling it a priority
Posted October 23, 2019 1:48 p.m. EDT
CNN — The Trump administration has tried multiple times to cut billions from foreign aid programs aimed at fighting corruption in Ukraine and other countries, despite President Donald Trump's oft-repeated claim that fighting corruption in Ukraine is a top issue for his administration, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The Post, citing White House budget documents, noted that the administration tried to cut a $30 million allocation to Ukraine for a program intended to support the country's anti-corruption bureau to $13 million, an attempt that was rejected by Congress. The paper said that in its 2020 budget request, which was released in March, the White House again suggested allocating $13 million to Ukraine for the program, but that "Congress seems likely to once again reject the proposed cut." The paper notes that lawmakers have yet to agree on a budget for this fiscal year.
The White House also "sought to streamline a number of overseas democracy assistance and foreign aid accounts under one larger umbrella," hoping that by doing so, they would save more than $2 billion, according to the Post. The fund is also aimed at combating corruption in foreign countries, and in 2018, spending for Ukraine from the fund was $250 million. The "White House has asked for $145 million in 2020 under the new iteration of the program," the Post said.
The attempts to cut the funding are at odds with the arguments the administration and the President have given for why Trump withheld hundreds of millions in military aid to Ukraine.
Speaking about the Ukraine drama earlier this month, Trump told reporters that he's "only interested in corruption," saying: "I don't care about politics. I don't care about Biden's politics ... I don't care about politics. But I do care about corruption, and this whole thing is about corruption ... This is about corruption, and this is not about politics."
On Sunday, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, again sought to dismiss allegations that the administration held up the aid in exchange for the country investigating Trump's political opponent, telling Fox News "there were two reasons that we held up the aid ... the first one was the rampant corruption in Ukraine." He also said the aid was withheld because the administration was concerned about how much other countries were giving in aid to Ukraine.
But Democrats -- who have launched an impeachment inquiry into the matter -- argue that a White House transcript of a July phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian President shows that Trump conditioned the release of the aid on Ukraine investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and looking into an unsubstantiated theory that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for hacking Democratic Party emails in 2016. Trump has denied doing anything improper, and there is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden or his son, whose ties to a Ukrainian gas company have been the focus of Trump's allegations of corruption.
Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget, told the Post in a statement that Trump "has consistently sought across-the-board cuts to foreign aid, and has proposed more cuts in his budgets than any other president in history."
"He has also strongly encouraged other countries to contribute their own efforts and resources to their defense and reform efforts," Semmel told the Post.