- President Donald Trump has been unequivocal in saying that fighting corruption is a key priority for him.
- But the Trump administration has proposed drastically cutting a State Department program dedicated to fighting global corruption by 40%.
- The administration put $5 million toward the program last year. But in 2019 and 2020, it proposed allocating just $3 million to it.
- Trump has repeatedly called for Ukraine and China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, over corruption.
- There’s no evidence of wrongdoing or illegal activity on the part of either Biden in Ukraine or China, despite the president’s allegations.
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President Donald Trump says fighting corruption is a key priority for him.
Addressing a controversial phone call he had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump said their conversation was “largely [about] fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine.”
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the president went as far as to tell Vice President Mike Pence to convey to Ukraine that the US was withholding military aid while demanding the Ukrainian government fight corruption.
Pence confirmed as much, saying during an August diplomatic trip to Poland that the US has “great concerns about issues of corruption.”
Pence said that before investing more taxpayer money in Ukraine, “the president wants to be assured that those resources are truly making their way to the kind of investments that will contribute to security and stability in Ukraine, and that’s an expectation the American people have and the president has expressed very clearly.”
But given its concerns about rampant corruption, the Trump administration took the unusual step of proposing a major cut to a State Department program whose sole aim is to fight corruption around the world, according to the department’s budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year.
Broadly, the program is part of an initiative to combat the international drug trade and assist law enforcement in doing so.
In 2018, the administration put $5 million toward the global anti-corruption program. But in 2019 and 2020, it proposed cutting the program by 40% and allocating just $3 million to it.
The initiative includes several other programs, including criminal justice assistance, demand reduction, drug supply reduction, global crime and drugs policy, combating cyber crime and organized crime, aviation support, international peacekeeping operations, and program development.
The State Department also proposed cuts to some of those programs, including demand reduction and fighting organized crime.
The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.
The president, meanwhile, continues claiming his conversation with Zelensky about Biden was innocent and purely focused on curbing corruption.
But a US intelligence official who filed an explosive whistleblower complaint against Trump based on the call said it was more about the US president soliciting foreign interference from Ukraine ahead of the 2020 election.
The complaint spurred House Democratic lawmakers to launch a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump following months of intra-party warfare over whether the move was too drastic.
Trump has taken an increasingly combative stance since, by lobbing attacks against Democrats and accusing them of orchestrating a “coup,” saying the whistleblower and those investigating him are guilty of treason, and amplifying suggestions that the country will break out in to a “civil war” if he’s impeached.
On Thursday, he doubled down on his calls to investigate Bidens, and this time drew China into it as well.
“China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Trump said on the White House lawn. “So, I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens.”
There’s no evidence of wrongdoing or illegal activity on the part of either Biden in Ukraine or China, despite the president’s allegations.