Donald Trump praised the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, as a “brave man” for his handling of the Russian invasion – nearly three years after he tried to extort him for political dirt on Joe Biden.
The revelation that the then-president was secretly linking military aid to opening an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden, his son, led to Mr Trump’s first impeachment by the House of Representatives.
He told the annual conservative conference, held in Orlando, Florida: “The Russian attack on Ukraine is appalling. It's an outrage, and an atrocity that should never have been allowed to occur,” he said. “We are praying for the proud people of Ukraine, God bless them all.”
But Mr Trump quickly shifted to his lie that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. He also noted how during George W Bush’s administration, Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Georgia and during Barack Obama’s administration, he annexed Crimea.
“Under Biden, Russia invaded Ukraine. I stand as the only president of the 21st century on whose watch Russia did not invade another country,” he said, for which received thunderous applause.
Mr Trump mentioned Javelin anti-tank missiles that Ukrainians are using to push back against Russian forces. But when Mr Zelensky famously spoke with Mr Trump in 2019, the then-newly elected Ukrainian president brought up the purchase of Javelins. In response, Mr Trump asked for Mr Zelensky to find dirt on Mr Biden’s son Hunter.
“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it,” he said according to a transcript at the time and asked him to look into a conspiracy theory about the 2016 election and said he would like his then-Attorney General William Barr to call Mr Zelensky.
“The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son,” he said.
Mr Trump was later impeached by the House of Representatives, with all House Republicans voting against impeachment, which the former president touted at CPAC.
“When did you ever hear Republicans do that? But this was truly a scam,” he said and claimed that Mr Zelensky said Mr Trump did nothing wrong.
“We’re dealing with some people that are truly evil,” he said.
But the Senate voted to acquit him, with every Republican Senator except Mitt Romney of Utah clearing Mr Trump. At the time, Mr Romney criticised Mr Trump’s actions.
“The president withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so,” he said.
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