With the Trump-Biden-Ukraine story dominating the news on Tuesday, Andrea Mitchell brought on former Obama CIA Director John Brennan to discuss the issue. Not content to condemn Trump for misbehavior, Mitchell and Brennan spread some fake news and revisionist history about the previous administration.
Brennan told Mitchell that by threatening to withhold military aid to Ukraine, Trump was endangering national security. Mitchell agreed, but then she did the common media thing where it is not enough to condemn Trump, but you must also re-write history and portray Barack Obama as the man who stood up to the Russians, "And if you know, if you can recall from the Obama years the president said today that President Obama only sent bedsheets and blankets. I thought they were defensive -- that defensive aid was sent was sent to Ukraine." She then admitted, "I may be incorrect on that."
She is indeed "incorrect on that." Back in August, when this current story was just beginning to percolate, Politico reported that, "The Trump administration in 2017 approved lethal arms sales to Ukraine, taking a step the Obama administration had never done. The move was seen as a sign that Trump’s government was taking a hard-line approach to a revanchist Vladimir Putin despite the president’s public rhetoric flattering the Russian leader." Indeed, U.S. aid to Ukraine under Obama was limited to things such as small reconnaissance drones, radios, military ambulances, medicine, night-vision goggles and armored vests, according to a 2015 Los Angeles Times report.
Brennan tried to evade these facts, overstating the case he declared, "There was a lot of defensive military assistance that was provided to the Ukrainians. The big question was whether there would be lethal, offensive aid provided and that was something that was not done, but there was a lot of assistance provided to the Ukrainian government." He then accused Trump of misrepresenting the Obama record, "But just like a many other things Donald Trump does, he totally, totally misrepresented what the Obama Administration did."
Unfortunately for Brennan facts are facts. A 2016 report from the Brookings Institute shows Obama officials defending their choice not to give lethal aid to Ukraine:
The administration rejected lethal military assistance. In our meetings last year with senior U.S. officials, it was apparent that the White House’s main concern was escalation: that the Russians might out-escalate the United States, or that U.S. leaders would find themselves on an escalation ladder that would end up with the Eighty-Second Airborne Division deploying to Donetsk.
If the discussion between Mitchell and Brennan occurred on another network, you might say that the segment was a banana.
Here is a transcript for the September 24 show:
Andrea Mitchell Reports
12:22 PM ET
ANDREA MITCHELL: Is it appropriate for the State Department to grease the skids, if you will, for the president's private lawyer to meet with Ukrainian officials and make allegations against the president's political opponents?
JOHN BRENNAN: Highly, highly unusual. Embassies abroad, and I've worked at them, frequently will make the arrangements for U.S. persons, not even U.S.officials, U.S. persons, to meet with host government officials if there is a reason for that private U.S. citizen to meet with that foreign official. But to have Donald Trump's personal lawyer meet with Ukrainian officials for a political purpose, that, again, just tramples upon everything that our democracy is founded upon which is that there should not be political interference in the conduct of our foreign policy, our national security matters. So what Mr. Giuliani did seems to be, again, something that is highly abnormal and may in fact have been a violation of law itself.
MITCHELL: And if you know, if you can recall from the Obama years the president said today that President Obama only sent bedsheets and blankets. I thought they were defensive -- that defensive aid was sent was sent to Ukraine, I may be incorrect on that. I haven’t had a minute to fact check, we’ve been on live.
BRENNAN: There was a lot of defensive military assistance that was provided to the Ukrainians. The big question was whether there would be lethal, offensive aid provided and that was something that was not done, but there was a lot of assistance provided to the Ukrainian government, because of the Russian interference, not just the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Crimea but the introduction of these Russian-supported forces going into Eastern Ukraine. But just like a many other things Donald Trump does, he totally, totally misrepresented what the Obama Administration did, vis a vis Ukraine, but what the rest of the world, specifically the Europeans have done, the United States is not by far, not the only country assisting Ukraine, but I do feel that Donald Trump feels the heat now and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s going to continue to grasp at straws, because he may have, in fact, been caught this time, unlike the other times when he similarly had moments of unethical, principled behavior.