Impeachment watch: Pentagon official contradicts Trump claim on halting Ukraine aid

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A Pentagon official said there were concerns within the U.S. government that Trump's hold on Ukraine aid was illegal.

Newly released transcripts from the House impeachment inquiry provide evidence that the Ukrainians knew Donald Trump was holding up military aid in order to force investigations of the Bidens, and that there were concerns within the U.S. government that the withholding of aid was illegal.

Laura Cooper — a deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia — told House investigators that government officials thought it may be illegal to withhold congressionally appropriated funds, such as the $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine, according to a transcript of her interview.

She went on to say that Office of Management and Budget officials, many of them allies of White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney who have thus far refused to testify, said the reason for the hold on aid was because of Trump's concern about corruption within Ukraine.

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However, government officials had already determined that corruption wasn't an issue and that the aid should be released.

"It was unanimous with the exception of the statements by OMB representatives, and those statements were relaying higher-level guidance," Cooper said.

Even worse for Trump is that Cooper testified that the Ukrainians knew Trump was withholding the aid in order to force the investigations of Trump's political rivals, contradicting Trump's assertions that Ukraine felt no pressure.

"I knew from my Kurt Volker conversation and also from sort of the alarm bells that were coming from Ambassador [Bill] Taylor and his team that there were Ukrainians who knew about this," Cooper said.

Remember, it was Cooper's deposition that House Republicans held up for five hours after they stormed into the secure area of the Capitol where Cooper was being deposed with cellphones — creating national security concerns.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, addressed the GOP stunt in the opening of the deposition, and the legal counsel for the Democrats on the committee apologized to Cooper for the delay.

"We apologize to you for the 5-hour delay as a result of some unauthorized Republican members being present, but we appreciate that you are here today and that you waited to take your testimony," Daniel Goldman, the director of investigations for the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, told Cooper.

Here's what else is happening in impeachment news:

  • Republicans released an 18-page memo laying out how they intend to fight back against the impeachment inquiry. One of their talking points is that Trump's "state of mind" during his call with the Ukrainian president, in which he asked for a favor in exchange for the military aid is important, and will be exculpatory for Trump, according to Axios. Republicans will only focus on the July 25 call in which Trump asks for the favor, however evidence from multiple witnesses in the impeachment inquiry say that the Ukrainians knew that the aid was being withheld in order to force the investigations.
  • Trump tweeted out a lie on Monday when he claimed the transcripts of impeachment depositions that have been publicly released were "doctored." Witnesses whose transcripts have been released were able to review the documents, and no one has complained that they were doctored — not even Republicans.
  • Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani — whose quest to force Ukraine to investigate the Bidens helped get Trump into the impeachment mess he faces — said he may start a podcast to counter-program impeachment hearings, CNN reported. Giuliani's loose lips could get Trump in even more trouble.
  • Mulvaney attempted to join a lawsuit filed by former national security adviser John Bolton and former national security aide Charles Kupperman, which asks a judge whether the House can force them to testify. However, Mulvaney withdrew his attempt to join the lawsuit, after a federal judge said he would likely rule against Mulvaney, according to Politico. The Washington Post reported that Bolton was angry Mulvaney made the attempt in the first place.
  • Trump on Monday suggested he regretted signing a law in 2017 that was supposed to protect whistleblowers at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Come back tomorrow for more impeachment news.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.