Republican Selective Amnesia About Ukraine

When it comes to selective memory - the Republicans have the upper hand on Ukraine.
paul manafort
Republicans blame Ukraine for Trump's firing of Paul Manafort, above, as campaign manager.

It can’t be amnesia, because hard-right Republicans remember to say “lock her up” whenever Hillary Clinton’s name is mentioned. Yet, somehow, they have forgotten their long history of mistreating Ukraine. Do they remember 2016?

NPR headline 2017
NPR headline, looking at the GOP convention in Cleveland in July

The Republican Convention: The change in the party’s platform went from supporting weapons for fighters in Ukraine to more general assistance, same as Obama’s policy. Trump now derides that as “Obama just gave Ukraine blankets.” And, who didn’t want the US to give weapons to Ukraine? Russia.

We are still in 2016: Laura Ingraham of Fox blamed Ukraine for costing the Trump campaign the valuable assistance of Paul Manafort.

Paul Manafort was Trump’s Campaign Manager right up to August. The Ukrainians had the goods on Manafort because of his work with the corrupt Russian stooge President of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych. Manafort resigned. But because the Democrats also suspected Manafort of being too close to the Russians and one person connected the DNC and Ukraine, Trump began to claim that Hillary colluded with Ukraine to “dig up dirt” on his campaign.

Ukraine interfere in election
Republican Selective Amnesia About Ukraine 7

And so much dirt there was to dig. On Trump’s people.

In 2019, Manafort was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and witness tampering, thus given a combined sentence of 73 months in prison. Further, the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in August 2020 that Manaforts’ ties to Russian  intelligence while he was Trump’s campaign manager “represented a grave counterintelligence threat” by creating opportunities for Russia to “acquire confidential information on the Trump campaign.”

Trump pardoned Manafort. Let’s review: Manafort was a danger to the United States, yet Trump, Laura Ingraham and a portion of the Republican Party blamed Ukraine for removing him as Trump’s campaign chairman.

The phone call. Let’s skip ahead to 2019. Congress had approved $391 million in aid to Ukraine, including weapons, after vetting the administration of the new president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, for corruption. But the aid was stuck. Trump made was what supposed to be a routine phone call. But this was Trump, who was using mob boss muscle after Zelensky asked to buy some Javelin anti-tank missiles.

Transcript so called
Republican Selective Amnesia About Ukraine 8

We may never know the complete conversation. Trump tore up notes and memos, forbade translators to reveal conversations, and apparently flushed papers down the toilet. The tape of the phone call was immediately moved to a super-secret vault.

Trump, no surprise for a 72-year-old non-digital native, did know how hacking works. So when he mentioned CrowdStrike, it made no sense. Crowdstrike was the company that had tracked the hacking of the DNC in 2016 back to Russia. Rudy Giuliani insisted it was Ukraine. Trump seems to think CrowdStrike’s server had to be in Ukraine to hack the DNC.

Ouch, grandpa.

The other thing
Republican Selective Amnesia About Ukraine 9

In 2019, Republicans were unfazed by the news that Trump had withheld $391 million in aid to Ukraine, in return for dirt on Joe Biden’s family. As far as Trump was concerned, this was the normal way to do business. I do something nice for you, now you do something nice for me. As if he personally was giving Ukraine $391 million in return for something to help him win the next election.

Vindman 1
Alexander Vindman

In the weeks that followed, Republican apologists tried to put all shades of lipstick on that pig. “This little thing?” they said. “It’s nothing, just a phone call.” They argued it was not a quid pro quo, because Trump didn’t say “You give me this and I’ll give you that.” The aid was held up for only two months, they said. But the aid was released only after a whistleblower expressed his reservations about what the president said. The identity of the whistleblower has never been revealed. But Alexander Vindman, the Director of European Affairs for the Security Council, who was born in Kyev, and listened in, was called before Congress to testify. There, Republicans, including Jim Jordan, hounded him about the identity of the whistle blower. (Vindman said he didn’t know.) In later televised hearings, Vindman said that he considered what Trump did “a partisan play” that would “undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing bipartisan support.” His testimony, and others, resulted in Trump’s first impeachment by Congress. Trump, in return, had Vindman, who had received a Purple Heart in Iraq, and his twin brother, fired from their jobs in the White House. Alexander Vindman chose to retire instead because of what he felt was continuous harassment and threats by high ranking Republicans.

Republicans, are you proud yet of the way you treat Ukrainians?

When Biden passed on warnings on January 28 that Russia looked like it was going to attack Ukraine, most European countries and Ukraine itself didn’t heed the alarm. Their attitude was that Putin was bluffing, that these were just military exercises, and that there was no reason to get excited. When Biden’s level of intelligence said on February 17 that an invasion was imminent, Europe finally took note.

Biden wanted Europe to take the lead. This was a European war, on their home turf. NATO’s front door. He was using diplomacy, financial aid, strategic movement of humanitarian supplies – all the things that can be done behind the scenes, without enraging Putin. Without getting us into a world war.

Senator Cruz
Republican Selective Amnesia About Ukraine 10

Here is Trump’s response? Biden is weak. There wouldn’t have been a war in Ukraine if I was president. Republicans seem to have forgotten their missing plank in 2016, forgotten about Rudy Giuliani’s attempts to pin something on Ukraine, forgotten about the war materials they didn’t send, and ignore the hypocrisy of their treatment of a Ukrainian-American war hero testifying about a disgraced American president’s disgraceful attempt to coerce a Ukranian president. They say Biden was too slow in his response to Putin. They say he should do something. They toy with macho, war-like poses.

Consider Bucks County’s Congressional Representative Brian Fitzpatrick. He blames President Biden for making nothing but “placating half-measures.” Really?

Fitzpatrick’s suggestion, and he was not alone among the hawks: Declare Ukraine a “no fly zone,” a decision that could only be enforced by shooting down Russian airplanes and missiles from NATO territory. That is, by starting World War III. He-man stuff. All bluster.

The noted Conservative Pat Buchanan has always been a Putin fanboy. In 2014, when Putin invaded and claimed Crimea, Buchanan said that Putin had God “on his side.” This year, with Putin invading Ukraine, but before he decided to turn Ukraine into rubble, Buchanan tried this on: “Whatever we may think of Putin, he is no Stalin.”

Linda Lee

Linda Lee

A former editor and reporter at The New York Times, Linda Lee has written seven books, and started a magazine about real estate and design in Miami. While her interest lies in Bucks County, her family lives near Harrisburg. She has a Shih Tzu named Yolo.

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