Since the beginning of the Ukraine scandal, President Donald Trump has insisted that there was “no quid pro quo” involving his demands that Ukrainian officials investigate his political enemies. The president’s defenders have been particularly aggressive in pushing back against the specific allegation that Trump withheld vital military aid to Ukraine in an effort to secure an investigation of an energy company connected to Joe Biden’s son. But on Thursday, as Congress debated a resolution to formalize the impeachment inquiry, one Republican lawmaker appeared to directly contradict Trump’s defense.
In the middle of a fiery speech attacking Democrats, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) said that the president “was doing his job, ensuring that if taxpayer dollars from my constituents and yours was going to the other side of the world, that it would be paired with a commitment to crack down on corruption at all levels—no matter who someone’s daddy is or what their political ambitions are.”
That’s a clear reference to Biden and his son Hunter, and the implication seems unavoidable: In Babin’s view, Trump withheld military aid in the hopes of securing a “commitment” from a foreign government to investigate the Democratic presidential frontrunner. Babin isn’t claiming the quid pro quo never happened; instead, he appears to be saying that it did happen and that he’s fine with it.
Babin isn’t the first prominent Trump defender to seemingly acknowledge a quid pro quo involving Ukrainian military aid. White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney did so earlier this month, when he told reporters that Trump withheld the funds in part to secure a Ukrainian investigation into a conspiracy theory about the Democratic National Committee. Mulvaney later tried to retract those comments.