Democrats Release Three New Transcripts as Part of Trump Impeachment Inquiry.
The release included the transcript of Laura Cooper, a top Defense Department official who oversees Ukraine. Democrats also released the transcripts from joint depositions with Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson, two former assistants to former US Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, The Hill reported.
While all three are relatively minor witnesses, they offered information for House investigators who are trying to determine whether Trump used the aid or the promise of a White House meeting as leverage to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open probes into interference in the 2016 presidential election and former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his top 2020 political rivals.
Cooper described to House impeachment investigators her dismay over the summer's delay of US military aid to Ukraine, painting a portrait of a Pentagon doing battle with the White House over the release of funding deemed "vital" to national security.
The deputy assistant defense secretary, who testified late last month, said that she took part in her agency's review of Ukraine's progress in combating corruption, in which officials concluded that "sufficient progress has been made".
Despite this assessment, top officials in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), guided by Trump, felt otherwise.
Cooper testified that it was felt unanimously except for OMB that Ukraine was making progress in combating corruption, adding that OMB was reflecting the views of "higher-level" guidance, a likely reference to Trump.
"It was unanimous with the exception of the statements by OMB representatives, and those statements were relaying higher-level guidance," she told investigators behind closed doors on October 23, according to a transcript of her testimony released Monday evening.
When Cooper sought clarification over why the aid was withheld, she said the White House initially declined to give it. That aid was "vital", she stated, "to helping the Ukrainians be able to defend themselves" from aggression from neighboring Russia.
Cooper noted that release of the aid was contingent upon Ukraine meeting certain congressionally required "benchmarks" to battle corruption -- steps the Pentagon deemed Kyiv to have met in May. Yet in a July 18 meeting, defense department officials learned of a hold on the funding without explanation, a scenario she described as "unusual".
Eight days later, during another meeting, the reason was revealed.
"The president's concerns about corruption," she added, and it led to a scramble within the national security community, both in the Pentagon and beyond, to convince the White House to release the funds.
"My sense is that all of the senior leaders of the US national security departments and agencies were all unified in their view that this assistance was essential, that we could work with the government of Ukraine to tackle corruption, and they were trying to find ways to engage the president on this," she added.
Anderson also stated that Trump's request for Ukrainian leaders to launch specific investigations conflicted with US policy aimed at combating international corruption.
He told lawmakers last month that while the State Department had developed specific targets for anti-corruption efforts abroad, "individual investigations were not part of that policy".
Croft, who replaced Anderson in that post over the summer, testified that Kyiv knew the aid was being withheld earlier than previously known.
Croft told investigators last month that officials at the Ukrainian Embassy approached her two separate times to privately inquire about the decision to withhold aid, stating that these contacts occurred sometime after July 18 and before August 28, when Politico reported the hold.
"They found out very early on or much earlier than I expected them to," she told investigators on October 30.
Croft also said she believed Trump was seeking to counter the narrative of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election by shifting the focus to be about Ukraine supporting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
"It seemed logical to me that in an attempt to counter the narrative about Russian support for the Trump administration in the 2016 election ... that it would be useful to shift that narrative by shifting it to Ukraine as being in support of the Clintons," she testified, adding that she believed this would help the president "balance out" the collusion narrative.
Both Croft and Anderson also raised concerns about the role played in Ukraine by Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer.
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|Publication:||FARS News Agency|
|Date:||Nov 12, 2019|
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