Impeachment Witness: Ukrainians Asked State Dept. About Holdup of Aid - NBC 7 San Diego
President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

The latest news on President Donald Trump's presidency

Impeachment Witness: Ukrainians Asked State Dept. About Holdup of Aid

As the aid was being blocked this summer, Ukraine officials began quietly asking the State Department about the holdup

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Pentagon Official: White House Ordered Ukraine Aid Freeze

    Newly released transcripts from Laura Cooper, the only defense official to testify so far, show defense officials questioning Trump's authority when it came to withholding nearly $400 million in aid to persuade Ukraine to investigate a political rival. Trump's actions with Ukraine are the focus of public hearings slated to start Wednesday. (Published Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019)

    The view among the national security officials was unanimous: Military aid to Ukraine should not be stopped. But President Donald Trump's acting chief of staff thought otherwise.

    As the aid was being blocked this summer, Ukraine officials began quietly asking the State Department about the holdup. The concern was clear for the young democracy battling an aggressive Russia.

    "If this were public in Ukraine it would be seen as a reversal of our policy," said Catherine Croft, the special adviser for Ukraine at State, who fielded the inquiries from the Ukrainians.

    "This would be a really big deal," she testified. "It would be a really big deal in Ukraine, and an expression of declining U.S. support for Ukraine."

    State Dept. Official: Order to Withhold Ukraine Aid Came From Trump

    [NATL] State Dept. Official: Order to Withhold Ukraine Aid Came From Trump

    State Department advisor testified Wednesday that the order to withhold Ukraine military aid came "at the direction of the president." Meanwhile, members of the House Rules Committee debated language set to be voted on by the entire House on Thursday. NBC's Alice Barr reports.

    (Published Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019)

    Croft's remarks were among the transcripts released Monday from the House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

    And they begin to chisel away at a key Republican defense of Trump. Allies of the president say Trump did nothing wrong because the Ukrainians never knew the aid was being delayed.

    Eventually, the White House released its hold and the funds were sent to the ally.

    The impeachment inquiry is looking at whether Trump violated his oath of office by holding back the congressionally approved funds while he asked the new Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for a favor— to investigate political rival Joe Biden's family and the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

    Transcripts of testimony from closed-door interviews with Croft and another Ukraine specialist at State, Christoper Anderson, as well as the Defense Department's Laura Cooper, come as House Democrats are pushing ahead to this week's live public hearings.

    Cooper told investigators that, in a series of July meetings at the White House, she came to understand that Trump's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, was holding up the military aid for the U.S. ally.

    Who's Who in the Trump-Ukraine Affair

    President Donald Trump faces a formal impeachment inquiry led in the Democratic-controlled House after he asked the newly elected Ukrainian president to investigate one of his chief political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden.

    Credit: Noreen O'Donnell, Nelson Hsu, Nina Lin/NBC

    "There was just this issue of the White House chief of staff has conveyed that the president has concerns about Ukraine," she said.

    When she and others tried to get an explanation, they found none.

    "We did not get clarification," she said.

    "My sense is that all of the senior leaders of the U.S. national security departments and agencies were all unified in their — in their view that this assistance was essential," said Cooper, an assistant defense secretary. "And they were trying to find ways to engage the President on this."

    Croft and Anderson testified about the oversized reach of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani into foreign policy on Ukraine in unsettling ways as he portrayed Zelenskiy's new government as an "enemy" of Trump.

    Croft told investigators of her "trepidation" of taking on the role in spring of adviser to the special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, because she worried that Giuliani was influencing Trump to change U.S. policy toward the ally.

    Public Impeachment Hearings to Begin This Week

    [NATL]GOP Pushes for Whistleblower Testimony as Dems Prepare for Public Impeachment Hearings

    Three people are set to testify in public impeachment hearings this week: acting Ukraine Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent on Wednesday; former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovich appears Friday. Meanwhile, Republicans are demanding testimony from the anonymous whistleblower who first raised red flags regarding President Trump's aid-for-investigation pressure on Ukraine. NBC's Tracie Potts reports.

    (Published Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019)

    She said she theorized that by "painting sort of Ukraine as being against Trump" it could help the president "distract from a narrative" that Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to help him.

    Anderson, who held the special adviser role before Croft, said, "I had the fear that if Giuliani's narrative took hold, that the Ukrainian Government was an enemy of the President, then it would be very hard to have high-level engagement."

    He said Volker had warned him, "Giuliani is not moving on to other issues, and so this might still be a problem for us moving forward."

    Cooper said she and other aides were asking questions about what legal authority the White House had to halt congressionally approved aid for Ukraine.

    She said it was "unusual" to have the congressional funds suddenly halted that way. The Pentagon was "concerned."

    Cooper told investigators that it was when Volker visited in August that he explained there was a "statement" that the Ukraine government could make to get the security money flowing.

    Kent Testimony: Trump Actions "Injurious To The Rule Of Law"

    [NATL] Kent Testimony: Trump Actions "Injurious To The Rule Of Law"

    Transcript of key State Department official's testimony reveals more damaging evidence against President Trump.

    (Published Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019)

    It was the first she had heard of what is now the quid pro quo central to the impeachment inquiry — the administration's push for the Ukraine government to investigate Trump's political rivals as the funding was being withheld.

    "Somehow an effort that he was engaged in to see if there was a statement that the government of Ukraine would make," she said, "that would somehow disavow any interference in U.S. elections and would commit to the prosecution of any individuals involved in election interference."

    Cooper described the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, saying it involved a range of items such as night vision goggles, vehicles, sniper rifles and medical equipment.

    Dems Announce First Open Impeachment Hearings

    [NATL] Dems Announce First Open Impeachment Hearings

    House Democrats announced they'll hold the first public hearings next week in their impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

    (Published Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019)

    "Security assistance is vital to helping the Ukrainians be able to defend themselves," Cooper said.

    Because Ukraine and Georgia are two "front-line states" facing Russian aggression, the U.S. needed to "shore up these countries' abilities to defend themselves."

    "It's in our interest to deter Russian aggression elsewhere around the world," she said.

    First Transcripts in Impeachment Inquiry Released

    [NATL] Impeachment Inquiry: Yovanovitch, McKingly Transcripts Released

    House Democrats on Monday released the written record of testimony from two witnesses who say they were caught up in the Trump administration's efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the president's political rivals. Those witnesses: former top State Department official Michael McKinley and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. NBC's Alice Barr reports.

    (Published Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019)

    Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Zeke Miller, Eric Tucker, Mike Balsamo, Matthew Daly and Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report.