WASHINGTON (AP) — In a blow to GOP defenses of President Donald Trump, a Defense Department official said Wednesday the Ukrainian government asked “what was going on” with U.S. military aid as early as July 25 — the very day that Trump asked Ukraine’s president to investigate Democrats.
Testifying in an evening hearing, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper told lawmakers her staff recently showed her emails that she had not yet seen when she testified behind closed doors last month in the impeachment probe looking into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Cooper said her staff received an email on July 25 from a Ukrainian embassy contact asking “what was going on with Ukraine’s security assistance.” She said she “cannot say for certain” that Ukraine was aware the aid was being withheld, but said “it’s the recollection of my staff that they likely knew.”
Republicans have argued there couldn’t be a “quid pro quo” — investigations into Democrats for military aid — if Ukrainians weren’t aware of a hold on the aid.
“Your testimony today destroys two of the pillars of the president’s defense,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. “The first pillar: No harm no foul. The Ukrainians didn’t know that the hold was in place, so it didn’t really hurt them. The second pillar: This president was a real champion of anti-corruption.”
Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Zelenskiy occurred in the morning in Washington. After Zelenskiy pressed for the military aid, Trump suggested Ukraine “look into” Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a huge Ukrainian natural gas company.
In addition to the email from the Ukrainian Embassy, Cooper testified that her staff also received two emails from the State Department that afternoon of July 25. One said “that the Ukrainian Embassy and House Foreign Affairs Committee are asking about security assistance.” A second email said “the Hill knows about the (military aid) situation to an extent and so does the Ukrainian Embassy.”