Democrats Change Tune on Lethal Aid to Ukraine to Help Case Against Trump

Dems say Trump's stance on Ukraine is proof of Russian ties—but Obama had same stance

The town of Shyrokyne, in the Donetsk region, shows a street with buildings destroyed by pro-Russian separatists shelling
The town of Shyrokyne, in the Donetsk region, shows a street with buildings destroyed by pro-Russian separatists shelling / Getty Images

Prominent members of the Democratic Party now seem to be in favor of supplying Ukraine with lethal military aid, despite the fact that the Obama administration refused to give weapons to the besieged country in its fight against pro-Russian separatists for years.

What's changed? The newfound support for lethal aid on the left helps Democrats make their case that President Donald Trump has been influenced by the Russians.

This was made clear by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, who kicked off Monday's hearing on Russia's attempt to interfere in the 2016 election by charging President Donald Trump's campaign with changing the Republican party's platform on behalf of Russia.

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The charge is rooted in a July Washington Post report that Trump's campaign had changed a pledge to provide Ukraine with "lethal defensive weapons" that was originally in the platform to an open-ended pledge to provide Ukraine with "appropriate assistance" in its fight against pro-Russian separatists.

That report is now being disputed by the Washington Examiner.

Democrats, led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), alleged in the hearing that the pledge to provide lethal aid was removed from the platform at the "insistence of the Trump campaign" because of meetings that campaign officials had with Russians.

"Is it possible that the removal of the Ukraine provision from the GOP platform is a coincidence?" Schiff said. "It is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental."

Schiff at the end of the hearing said that theRepublican platform was changed as a deliberate favor for Russia.

"Do the Russians favor the United States provision of lethal defense weapons to Ukraine?" Schiff asked National Security Adviser Mike Rogers, who responded that the Russians would "strongly oppose such an idea."

Schiff responded by stating that the proposal to give lethal aid to Ukraine has bipartisan support and called for an official inquiry into whether there was "any communication between the Russians and the Trump campaign that resulted in the defeat of an amendment that was against Russian interest."

Rep. Andre Carson (D., Ind.) went even further with his accusations.

"Trump himself changed the Republican Party platform to no longer arm Ukraine," Carson said, adding that officials such as Paul Manafort and General Michael Flynn were hired only "because of their Russian connections."

Not included in the line of questioning by Schiff or Carson was any mention of why Obama never sent lethal aid to Ukraine, which has been fighting pro-Russian forces since 2014.

The Obama administration's position was that sending weapons to Ukraine would have increased the bloodshed in the country and given Russia "a pretext for further incursions," according to the New York Times.

Also not mentioned is that the Democratic platform, completed the same month as the Republican platform, also didn't call for lethal aid to Ukraine.

The Democratic platform's brief section on Russia is critical of its "destabilizing actions" in the region, but makes only a vague commitment that it would "deter Russian aggression" and "build European resilience."

The platform, however, also says that Democrats are still "prepared to cooperate" with Russia like the Obama administration did on issues such as reducing nuclear stockpiles.

‘Russia' segment of 2016 Democratic Party Platform, p. 39

Later in the "Europe" section of the platform it is reiterated that "Democrats will stand with our European allies and partners to deter Russian aggression," and that the party will maintain its commitment to NATO partners.

Republicans on the committee called the Democrats out for their opportunistic transformation on Russia policy.

"As far as aid to Ukraine, as far as I recall the Obama administration always refused to give lethal aid to Ukraine," said Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.). "It could be argued that the Republican platform in 2016 was actually stronger than the Democratic platform on that."

King said that there was "no evidence" to support the Democrats' claim and called the accusation that Trump changed the platform on behalf of Russia "slanderous."

The Republican delegate who proposed adding the "lethal defensive weapons" language in an amendment told the Washington Examiner that she was fine with how the platform turned out on Russia.

"The platform ended up tougher than it started," said Diana Denman, a Texas delegate.

The added paragraph from Denman's amendment does not explicitly rule out providing weaponry to Ukraine.

"We support maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions, together with our allies, against Russia unless and until Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored," the platform declares. "We also support providing appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine and greater coordination with NATO defense planning."