Right-wing talk radio host Hugh Hewitt has pulled out a new rhetorical stop in Republican efforts to justify President Donald Trump’s actions in the Ukraine scandal, claiming that Trump withholding military aid to Ukraine while seeking to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate his political opponent would be similar to Congress seeking to cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia after that regime’s murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. “Was that not the use of foreign aid to achieve a political end?” Hewitt asked his guest.
On the October 2 edition of The Hugh Hewitt Show, Hewitt, who is also an NBC News and MSNBC contributor, discussed the impeachment inquiry into Trump with National Journal editor Josh Kraushaar.
Hewitt proposed that there is nothing wrong with using American aid to apply political pressure to foreign governments, ignoring the distinction between using political pressure to advance U.S. interests and using U.S. foreign policy to assist in a personal political dispute.
Hewitt also insisted that there is no evidence that Trump held back aid over this matter — but adding that if there does end up being such evidence, he won’t change his mind.
When Kraushaar began saying that the possibility of Trump withholding aid to Ukraine unless the country investigated former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden “troubles even Republicans,” Hewitt interrupted.
“Hunter Biden comes up, I have seen no connection whatsoever to restraining aid,” Hewitt said. “I have not seen a single document yet to prove that aid was ever delayed. But I'll wait and see that.”
Hewitt then compared Trump’s requests of the Ukrainian government to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s requests to foreign governments for evidence as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Kraushaar tried to respond: “He was an official, but he was part of the special counsel representing the government. And the problem here, Hugh, is that you have the president's attorney — not an emissary of the government — seemingly doing a lot of business, doing a lot of pressure, putting a lot of pressure on the Ukraine.”
“We'll put Rudy on one side,” Hewitt interrupted. “We're talking about the president of the United States calling Ukraine. Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo and Attorney General [William] Barr, as well.” He then pointed out that Mueller made “13 evidence requests of foreign governments.”
“Moreover, we have often used American aid to leverage our demands on foreign governments in a thousand different ways,” Hewitt said. “Sometimes against hostile governments, when we expel people. Sometimes with our allies, when we refuse to issue it. And the most obvious one: We cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the Khashoggi murder. Was that not the use of foreign aid to achieve a political end? The president did not support that, by the way. But Congress called for it. I think it's just hypocritical for Congress to say, ‘Oh my goodness, you’re using American influence to achieve an end.’”
Hewitt then sought to examine the very term “quid pro quo.”
“We have put the deep freeze on so many different people when we want American foreign policy — ‘quid pro quo’ is only being used against Trump because it’s a loaded political term,” Hewitt said. “Quid pro quo ought to mean what Hunter Biden did, apparently did, which was get $50,000 a month from a Ukrainian oligarch for reasons yet unknown. And so that’s when you get money to do something illegitimate, is a quid pro quo. When you’re conducting American foreign policy, Josh, I don’t believe it’s a quid pro quo at the outset. I think it’s an illegitimate use of the term.”
Kraushaar pointed out the obvious difference: In the case of Saudi Arabia, there was a brutal murder of a journalist, “and the United States and the Congress tried to punish it. With Ukraine, there doesn’t seem to be anything on their — this whole corruption seems to stem from something Hunter Biden, not anything that the Ukrainian government did.”