Ukraine Stopped Cooperating With the Mueller Investigation to Appease Trump

A theme that keeps cropping up lately is the way that people who have to deal with Donald Trump—be they foreign governments, congressional Republicans or White House staff—have to deal with his narcissism. To recap, Richard Greene wrote that they have one of two bad choices.

There are only two ways to deal with someone with [Narcissistic Personality Disorder], and they are both dangerous. There is no healthy way of interacting with someone with this affliction. If you criticize them they will lash out at you and if they have a great deal of power, that can be consequential. If you compliment them it only acts to increase the delusional and grandiose reality the sufferer has created, causing him to be even more reliant on constant and endless compliments and unwavering support.

That is what comes to mind when I read this bit of a bombshell from Andrew Kramer:

In the United States, Paul J. Manafort is facing prosecution on charges of money laundering and financial fraud stemming from his decade of work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

But in Ukraine, where officials are wary of offending President Trump, not so much. There, four meandering cases that involve Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, have been effectively frozen by Ukraine’s chief prosecutor.

The cases are just too sensitive for a government deeply reliant on United States financial and military aid, and keenly aware of Mr. Trump’s distaste for the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into possible collusion between Russia and his campaign, some lawmakers say.

In addition to dropping the investigation into Manafort’s dealings in Ukraine, the government has decided that it will not cooperate with Mueller’s investigation and most importantly, allowed Konstantin V. Kilimnik to go to Russia, where he will be unavailable for questioning. You might remember that Kilimnik was the go-between who facilitated the communication between Manafort and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska after he got the position as Trump’s campaign manager.

The government of Ukraine is being pretty transparent about why they are doing all of this.

The intention in Kiev to freeze cooperation with American investigators was readily acknowledged by Volodymyr Ariev, a member of Parliament who is an ally of President Petro O. Poroshenko.

“In every possible way, we will avoid irritating the top American officials,” Mr. Ariev said in an interview. “We shouldn’t spoil relations with the administration.”

In other words, they need the support of the Trump administration and know that they won’t get that if they cooperate with an investigation that he constantly rails about and calls a “witch hunt.” So we have an American president who is under investigation for conspiring with a foreign country to influence an election, while other countries fear that cooperating with that investigation will hurt their own interests because of our “Narcissist-in-Chief.”

But even that might not be the end of the story. Kramer’s report documents that “on March 2 the Pentagon announced final approval for the sale of 210 Javelins and 35 launching units” to Ukraine and the decision to stop their investigation of Manafort happened in early April. Given the patterns we’ve seen with the Trump administration, Jonathan Chait suggests that there might be more to this story.

It is of course possible that Ukraine reached this decision on its own, completely independent of any suggestion from Washington. It is far more likely that somebody in the administration proposed a quid pro quo, and Ukraine quite rationally decided it would rather have weapons to defend itself against the next Russian aggression than participate in an investigation that the president of the United States regards as a mortal threat.

This is the kind of thinking that used to be the purview of conspiracy theorists. But as Chait writes, “The number one rule in understanding Trump is that the lies are usually covering even worse lies.”

But regardless of whether this move was a quid pro quo, the government of Ukraine is being very open about the fact that they have come to the conclusion that the decisions this administration makes will be based on whether the president is personally treated with loyalty or animosity. This country’s national security interests have taken a back seat to Trump’s ego.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.