MSNBC's Ali Velshi drew a straight line between Donald Trump's extortion scheme against Ukraine and Russia's invasion.
The former president was impeached for the first time for trying to pressure the country's newly elected president Volodymyr Zelenskyy into investigating Joe Biden by withholding military aid as Russian president Vladimir Putin threatened Ukraine, and Velshi said the scheme was directly related to the bloody 2022 war.
"This was a moment when what Ukraine really needed was its biggest strongest partner, the United States, to step up and say that Ukraine and its new president had the full backing and respect and support of the United States, that the U.S. stood with Ukraine and with Zelenskyy against any Russian aggression," Velshi said. "But that's not what's Ukraine's new president got. Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, got Donald Trump, which Trump refused to invite Zelenskyy to the White House for a show of solidarity that the new Ukrainian leader so desperately wanted. Trump and his allies instead pushed a conspiracy theory, actually a bit of Russian disinformation, that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 U.S. election -- not Russia, remember that?"
"Rudy Giuliani let an effort to manufactured dirt in Ukraine on Trump's political opponents," he added. "When the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch was seen as a roadblock to that project, precisely because she was such a staunch opponent of the corrupt figures and Ukraine, who were helping Giuliani spin up this dirt, they trust her reputation. Donald Trump ultimately removed her and, of course, there was the infamous phone call in which Trump made military aid to Ukraine contingent upon Zelenskyy doing Trump a favor, announcing investigations into Joe Biden and his son. Trump froze congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine to pressure him."
The scheme resulted in Trump's impeachment, although Republican senators later acquitted him -- and Velshi argued the entire saga emboldened Putin to invade his vulnerable neighbor.
"We tend to see Trump's Ukraine debacle in terms of its domestic political consequences in America," Velshi said. "Consequences for Ukraine were far more serious. What Ukraine needed was for Trump to support its new untested, uncorrupt president on the world stage so he was taken seriously by his neighbors, including Russia, and by his fellow citizens, so that he could be the real leader he needed to be in fending off Vladimir Putin."
"Instead," Velshi added, "Donald Trump chose to try to leverage the situation for his own political gain and for President Zelenskyy, having that military aid frozen, and having the president of the United States tried to shake him down, well, that costs Zelenskyy in terms of power, it cost him in terms of respect, it cost him in terms of authority against Vladimir Putin, and who can say what it might end up costing him now that he is in a war."