Rob Portman’s Cover Story on Trump and Ukraine Falling Apart

On Early Sept. 11, Congress Was Notified Of Funds Being Released — But Portman Says He Called Trump That Night To Ask For The Funds To Be Released?

COLUMBUS — A key piece of Donald Trump’s cover story on Ukraine — that he released the hold on military aid to the country after a phone call with Sen. Rob Portman on the evening of Sept. 11 — is falling apart as Bloomberg reports that “notice to Congress that the [aid] was being released was sent early on Sept. 11.”

“Rob Portman has been carrying water for Donald Trump on the Ukraine scandal, bleating out the White House’s talking points and providing Trump with a cover story — and now that cover story has been blown to pieces,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “It’s time for Rob Portman to come clean about what he knows about the Ukraine scandal and when he knew it.”

From Bloomberg:

Notice to Congress that the $141 million was being released was sent early on Sept. 11, hours before Trump said he personally made the decision to lift the freeze. All of those events undermine Trump’s account.

Speaking to reporters last month, Trump said he was persuaded to release the money in a phone call that day with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.

“He called up, ‘Please let the money go,’” Trump said. “I said ‘Rob, I hate being the country that’s always giving money. He said, ‘You know what? But it’s important …’ I gave the money because Rob Portman and others called me and asked. But I don’t like to be the sucker, and European countries are helped far more than we are.”

UPDATED TIMELINE:

January 2019 — Giuliani meets with the Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko. (Giuliani admitted to the meeting in a July 2019 story for the New Yorker and told the New York Times that he called Trump during their first meeting.)

Jan. 15, 2019 — Portman tweets that he met with Marie Yovanovitch, the American ambassador to Ukraine, to discuss “the latest developments in #Ukraine.”

Jan. 15, 2019 — Portman votes to let the Trump administration ease sanctions on companies linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. One day earlier he had told CNN he would “be more on that side” of supporting sanctions.

Jan. 30, 2019 — Portman endorses Trump, saying he gets “a lot done … with him.”

March 20, 2019 — The Hill publishes a dubious story sourced to Lutsenko that gets bounced around the right-wing media echo chamber and conservative Twitter (including Donald Trump Jr.).

April 21, 2019 — Zelensky is elected as Ukraine’s next president.

April 29, 2019 — The whistleblower learns that Yovanovitch was being “suddenly recalled” — and Giuliani tells Ukrainian media that it’s because of her “efforts against the president.”

May 6, 2019 — The State Department announces that Yovanovitch is leaving her post early. Democratic lawmakers call her removal a “political hit job.”

May 9, 2019 — Giuliani admits to the New York Times that he is “meddling in an investigation” in Ukraine.

May 31, 2019 — Portman tweets that he met with Zelensky and “encouraged them to continue [their] anti-corruption efforts.”

June 5, 2019 — Portman delivers a floor speech about his trip to Ukraine.

“I told President Zelensky that he is now the face of reform in Ukraine and indeed for those of us watching around the world. He acknowledged that with a smile and said, ‘I know.’ He said that his commitment to reform is real, but he also had no illusions about how hard reform will be, and I am very hopeful he will have the continued courage to see it through, whether we are talking about fighting corruption, more transparency in government or civilian control of the military. He understands it is the only path forward and frankly a linchpin of the U.S. partnership with Ukraine, and as a matter of law, a condition of our future defense assistance.”

June 19, 2019 — Portman questions the Trump administration’s special envoy for Ukraine, Ambassador Kurt Volker, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

July 25, 2019 — Trump has his infamous call with Zelensky.

Sept. 1, 2019 — Vice President Mike Pence meets with Zelensky in Poland. The next day Pence is asked if the Trump administration is holding up funding because of efforts to “dig up dirt on the Biden family.” Pence responds that “Trump had me make clear, we have great concerns about issues of corruption.”

Sept. 3, 2019 — The Senate Ukraine Caucus sends a letter to Mick Mulvaney at the Office of Management and Budget calling on the OMB to direct the Pentagon to release the funds.

Sept. 5, 2019 — The Washington Post pens an editorial making crystal clear that Trump “is attempting to force Mr. Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden.”

Several days before Sept. 11, 2019 — The State Department authorizes the release of the funds.

Early on Sept. 11, 2019 — Congress is notified that the Ukraine aid was being released. This contradicts Trump’s (and Portman’s) claim that he called the president to ask for the funds to be released.

Sept. 11, 2019 —  According to Portman’s account — and after Congress has already been notified of the release — he calls Trump, claiming that he asked him to release the funds.

Sept. 12, 2019 — According to Trump (and Portman), Trump releases the funding, which had actually been released several days earlier.

Sept. 24, 2019 — Portman goes on Fox Business and Fox News to defend Trump, repeating Trump’s talking points that he sees no quid pro quo.

Sept. 25, 2019 — Portman tells a reporter for Spectrum News 1 that he doesn’t believe Trump’s behavior crossed a line.

Sept. 26, 2019 — Portman tells CNN he had been “been ‘running around’ all day” and had not read the complaint and refused to comment.

Oct. 2, 2019 — Trump says, “Rob Portman backed me up … I gave the money because Rob Portman and others called me and asked.”

Oct. 7, 2019 — Portman says, “The president should not have raised the Biden issue on that call, period. It’s not appropriate for a president to engage a foreign government in an investigation of a political opponent.”

Oct. 17, 2019 — Mulvaney admits there was a quid pro quo regarding military aid to Ukraine.

Oct. 17, 2019 — Portman says, “I don’t know why the president would turn to [Giuliani]. I’ve never talked to Giuliani about anything to do with the Ukraine.”

Oct. 17, 2019 — Ambassador Gordon Sondland testifies before Congress and reportedly said “efforts by President Trump and his allies to press Kyiv to open investigations in exchange for a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president amounted to a quid pro quo.”

Oct. 18, 2019 — Kasich comes out in favor of impeachment.

Oct. 22, 2019 — Portman says, “There are a lot of gray areas” on emoluments in response to a question about Trump’s statement that the emoluments clause was “phony.”

Oct. 23, 2019 — Portman comes out as one of seven Republican senators who has ruled out impeachment.

Oct. 29, 2019 — When asked about impeachment, Portman says, “We don’t know in this case that there were any federal laws broken. We don’t know if there are any laws broken …Portman also restated his intention to vote for Trump in 2020.

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