Pentagon expert says Ukraine met all 'anticorruption requirements' for military aid

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A newly released transcript shows Laura Cooper provided sworn testimony to the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry that directly contradicted Trump's stated reason for freezing military aid to Ukraine.

The three committees leading the House impeachment inquiry released testimony on Monday from a Pentagon expert who contradicted Donald Trump's repeated claim that Ukraine needed to address corruption in order to receive crucial aid funding from the United States.

Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense, was asked during closed-door testimony on Oct. 23 if Ukraine "had met all the necessary anticorruption requirements as well as other benchmarks that you described earlier under U.S. law" in order to receive military aid.

"That is correct," Cooper replied.

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Later in her testimony, Cooper confirmed that the Defense Department did not "conduct any sort of review" about corruption in Ukraine following a decision made prior to May that the country had made sufficient progress to receive the military funding.

Cooper stated that the Defense Department "affirmed that we believed sufficient progress has been made," and that the view was "unanimous with the exception of the statements by OMB representatives, and those statements were relaying higher level guidance."

OMB refers to the Office of Management and Budget, an agency run by Mick Mulvaney, who also serves as Trump White House acting chief of staff.

Cooper's testimony contradicts statements made by Trump about his administration's reason for withholding crucial military assistance to Ukraine earlier this year.

In an October interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Trump claimed his administration had an "obligation to investigate corruption. And that's what it was."

Mulvaney, in a separate October interview, claimed the aid was frozen because of a U.S. law "requiring us, to make sure that corruption was moving in the right direction."

Yet according to Cooper's testimony, the Trump administration certified Ukraine had made sufficient progress well before the summer of 2019, when the administration froze the aid.

The House is in the midst of an impeachment inquiry into Trump's actions with regard to Ukraine. According to Mulvaney, the aid funding was frozen to secure an investigation into a long-debunked conspiracy about the Democratic National Committee servers, though he later tried to walk back those comments.

Others have stated that the aid was withheld to pressure Ukraine into investigating Trump's 2020 election rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Testimony from multiple witnesses corroborates this allegation.

Soliciting or accepting election assistance from a foreign national is illegal.

Cooper's testimony last month was interrupted when Republicans barged into the secure room where lawmakers were conducting the deposition, delaying the hearing for hours. The move may have constituted a national security risk, experts said, because the lawmakers took their cell phones with them into the hearing room, which was a secure area.

Cooper's testimony was released two days before the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry. In that hearing, scheduled for Wednesday morning, top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine Bill Taylor and top State Department official George Kent are expected to testify about their knowledge of Trump's alleged attempts to condition military aid to Ukraine on an investigation into Biden.

Cooper's full testimony can be read here, and excerpts from that testimony can be found below:

Laura Cooper Excerpts (PDF)

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.