STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Here's a relevant question in the House impeachment inquiry. Why does President Trump hold such a negative view of Ukraine? The president has long spoken of Ukraine with suspicion, and his views emerged repeatedly as he demanded investigations in Ukraine. In the very phone call where the president asked Ukraine's leader to look into a political rival, Trump also said Ukraine hasn't helped the U.S. that much. He also talked up conspiracy theories. We now know the president was also blocking military aid to Ukraine and resisting meeting with Ukraine's president. So where did his negative views come from? Here's NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre.
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Last year, well before the national political conversation turned to Ukraine, former New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg wrote an opinion piece. It was headlined "How To Impeach Oneself." He was talking about the Russia investigation then but says it applies equally to Ukraine now.
JUDD GREGG: The president's his own worst enemy when it comes to this issue. He simply has this desire to exaggerate and to speak at the margin of reality.
MYRE: Gregg says the president harms himself by rejecting advice of policy experts on complicated questions like Ukraine. Gregg still believes what he wrote a year ago, one of the ways to self-impeach is to bring Rudy Giuliani on to your damage control team.
GREGG: I think Giuliani's a dangerous guy to have around.
MYRE: Both Trump and Giuliani repeatedly say that Ukraine has attempted to sabotage the president. Here's Trump recently on Fox News.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You hear about Ukraine, and you've been hearing about it. I heard Clinton was involved. I heard they got somebody who wrote the fake dossier.
MYRE: This is just one of many times the president suggested that Ukraine, and not Russia, meddled in the 2016 election. Andrew Weiss is with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
ANDREW WEISS: Trump jumped on the idea that Ukraine was the real problem here, not Russia, and has basically been pushing that since the earliest days of his presidency.
MYRE: Some members of Trump's own team have tried to persuade him that Ukraine wasn't involved. They include Tom Bossert. He was Trump's homeland security adviser for the first year of the presidency. He's speaking here on ABC's "This Week."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")
TOM BOSSERT: It's not only a conspiracy theory, it is completely debunked. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again. And for clarity here, let me just again repeat that it has no validity.
MYRE: Ukraine depends on U.S. political and military support in its ongoing war with Russia. Andrew Weiss says it makes no sense for Ukraine to subvert a U.S. president.
WEISS: And the fact that the Trump administration came into office with Donald Trump spouting all sorts of anti-Ukrainian, pro-Russian narratives has been deeply concerning. So for the Ukrainian government the challenge was, basically, how do you channel all of that negative energy from Donald Trump in a more positive direction?
MYRE: Ukraine appeared to have an opportunity when Volodymyr Zelenskiy won the presidency this spring in a landslide. A Trump administration delegation including Energy Secretary Rick Perry attended Zelenskiy's inauguration in May. They were impressed. They tried to persuade Trump that Zelenskiy was serious about fighting corruption and worthy of support. Here's Perry describing his effort.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
RICK PERRY: I asked the president multiple times, Mr. President, we think it is in the United States' and in Ukraine's best interest that you and the president of Ukraine have conversations, that you discuss the options that are there.
MYRE: Yet, afterward, the White House ordered a suspension of military aid to Ukraine. And when Trump spoke with Zelenskiy on July 25, the U.S. president asked for a favor, a corruption investigation of Joe Biden and his son. All this will come under scrutiny today with public testimony at the impeachment inquiry. Greg Myre, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.