In an interview with Fox News’ Fox News at Night with Shannon Bream last night, Senator Portman discussed his efforts to secure the release of the security assistance to Ukraine, including his call with President Trump to push for its release. He said President Trump was focused on the need for the international community, specifically Europeans, to join in supporting Ukraine, a point with which Portman agrees. Portman said he believes there was no quid pro quo in the conversation President Trump and President Zelensky had regarding providing US military aid to Ukraine and that Democrats’ rush to impeachment is unwarranted.
Portman also discussed his support for the president’s border improvement plan, including wall funding, and why he voted against his national emergency declaration. He said he agrees there is a crisis at the southern border and supports the president’s border security plan but believes the president can access sufficient funding to implement his border security plan without setting a dangerous precedent that future presidents could exploit to go around Article I and Congress’ power of the purse.
Excerpts of his interview can be found below and a video can be found here:
PORTMAN ON PRESIDENT TRUMP PHONE CALL WITH UKRAINE PRESIDENT ZELENSKY:
“I’m co-chair of the Ukraine Caucus. I’d been urging the vice president, the secretaries of Defense and State to release the funds and on that date I called the president because we were getting to the point where the funds had to be released. And the president was very clear with me, he only raised one issue, and that issue only, that was about the Europeans not doing enough. He said, ‘Rob, I understand we need to help Zelensky and I know you want this aid to go, but I’m worried that the Europeans, particularly the Germans, aren’t doing enough to help Ukraine.’ I don’t disagree with him on that. We were kind of at the point where we had to obligate the funds so they could be effective for Ukraine to defend itself, so we needed to get the money going, but I think the president was interested in using the funds as leverage to try to get the Europeans to do more, that’s what he said to me.
“I don’t see the quid pro quo that the Democrats are claiming. In fact, I actually believe that if Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats had taken another 24 hours to make their decision and actually looked at the facts, which is the transcript itself, they might not have moved forward, because there is no quid pro quo. Never did the president threaten the aid, nor did he with me, in other words, he never linked the aid to corruption in general or certainly not an investigation in particular, so he talked about the fact that he wanted the Europeans to do more and was concerned about sending taxpayer dollars to Ukraine when the Europeans weren’t doing what they should be doing. My response, by the way, was don’t take it out on Zelensky. This new president in Ukraine, he’s pro-American, he’s doing all the right things in terms of fighting corruption, he ran a campaign on it and he needs the help because the Russian aggression is very real in Ukraine. So I don’t see it. I just don’t understand how they can say it’s because there’s a quid pro quo and then we find out there’s not a quid pro quo that they are still proceeding.”
“I called for the transcript to be made public and I’m glad the president did make it public.”
PORTMAN ON NOT VOTING FOR POTUS’ EMERGENCY DECLARATION:
“I did so a couple months ago too, the last time it came up, for the same reason. I have talked to the president about this but I believe more money could go to the border if he didn’t use this because now a lot of that money gets tied up in the courts because he is going, as you know, to use money that’s already appropriated by Congress for military construction. It’s just a case of how you feel about the two branches. Article I is Congress, we are supposed to appropriate every penny. In this case we appropriate it and then president says, ‘No, I want to shift it over here.’ Article II is the president. He supposed to execute it. I have a concern that the next president, whoever it is, Republican or Democrat, might misuse that national emergency. But no, I’m all for what he’s doing at the border, I support the border wall. I think his proposal for that was appropriate.”