Jim Jordan says Ukraine aid released because Zelensky showed he's the "real deal"

Jordan: Ukraine aid delay in the "best interest" of U.S.

Washington — Republican Congressman Jim Jordan continued his stalwart defense of President Trump in the ongoing impeachment inquiry, portraying the president's decision to place a hold on a multi-million-dollar military aid package to Ukraine as a way to ensure that country's government would use the funds wisely and appropriately.     

"We're talking about Ukraine, one of three most corrupt countries on the planet. And we're talking about the hard earned dollars of the American people," Jordan said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "They became convinced that this media star — this new guy to politics, his party just won an overwhelming majority in the their parliament — was the real deal. He was worth the risk. And they said, 'We'll release the aid.'"

For months, the White House withheld $391 million in military funds to Ukraine, blindsiding both Democrats and Republican allies in Congress who had authorized the package to help the former Soviet republic in its fight against Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass region. 

After bipartisan pressure in Congress — as well as the disclosure of the existence of the whistleblower complaint that first denounced Mr. Trump's dealings with Ukraine — the White House lifted its hold on September 11. 

The months-long delay of the aid is now at the center of impeachment inquiry by the Democratic-led House, with several witnesses testifying the funds were being delayed to pressure the Ukraine government to conduct and publicly announce investigations that would further Mr. Trump's personal political ambitions, including a probe into the Biden family. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested to "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan that the White House only released the aid because Congress learned about the existence of the whistleblower complaint.

But Jordan on Sunday pushed back against Pelosi's assertions, saying the main cause of the delay was that the administration was vetting Zelensky through "face-to-face meetings" with Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. senators and State Department diplomats. The Ohio Republican also said the Ukrainians did not conduct the investigations requested by Mr. Trump and his allies inside and outside the administration in any event. 

"The Ukrainians did nothing to — as far as investigations goes — to get the aid released," he said. "So there was never this quid pro quo that the Democrats all promise existed before President Trump released the phone call." 

Recent testimony by current and former administration officials contradict Jordan's statement. Multiple officials have confirmed that Zelensky had agreed to partake in a CNN interview to announce the investigations requested by Mr. Trump, but backed out once the aid was released.

The top U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, has told Congress he was concerned that the CNN interview could politicize U.S.-Ukrainian relations and erode the bipartisan support for the former Soviet country.

"My fear at the time was that, since Ambassador Sondland had told me President Zelensky had already agreed to do a CNN interview, President Zelensky would make a statement regarding investigations that would have played into domestic U.S. politics," Taylor told lawmakers.

  • Camilo Montoya-Galvez
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    Camilo Montoya-Galvez is the immigration reporter at CBS News. Based in Washington, he covers immigration policy and politics. Twitter: @camiloreports