KEY POINTS

  • Yovanovitch said transcripts of a 2019 phone call showed Trump was prepared to trade Ukraine’s national security for his benefit
  • She said Trump viewed Ukraine as a 'chip to negotiate'
  • Trump has yet to condemn Putin's invasion of Ukraine

Former President Donald Trump's attempts to withhold military aid from Ukraine in 2019 likely emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade the country, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said Monday.

On July 25, 2019, Trump called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to pressure him to launch an investigation into former Vice President and then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, over allegations of corruption. Hours after the phone call, Trump directed officials for the Office of Management and Budget to place a hold on the $400 million in military support funding for Ukraine in an attempt to force the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens.

Transcripts of the controversial phone call between the two world leaders, which were released in September 2019, showed that Trump treated Ukraine as a “pawn” and that he was prepared to trade the country’s national security for his benefit, thus emboldening Putin to attack, Yovanovitch said during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“I think Putin saw how Trump viewed Ukraine … as a pawn, a chip to negotiate,” Yovanovitch said. “The release of that transcript showed the world that we had an administration that was willing to trade our national security for personal and political gain.”

Yovanovitch was a career diplomat who was ousted from her post over accusations that she was going to undermine the Trump administration’s plans of having Ukraine investigate the Bidens.

She later testified to Congress that her removal was the work of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and two of his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were arrested and charged with campaign finance violations in October 2019.

Yovanvitch’s interview comes three weeks after Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Since then, Trump has yet to condemn the Russian president for his actions. Instead, the former president has praised Putin’s attack as “genius” and said there is “a lot of love” behind the Russian president’s actions.

"You say, what's the purpose of this? They had a country. You could see it was a country where there was a lot of love and we're doing it because, you know, somebody wants to make his country larger or he wants to put it back the way it was when actually it didn't work very well," Trump told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro on Sunday.

President Donald Trump had a controversial relationship with Russia's Vladimir Putin
President Donald Trump had a controversial relationship with Russia's Vladimir Putin AFP / Brendan SMIALOWSKI
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