Senior Pentagon official Laura Cooper undercut a Republican talking point that Ukraine did not know that the Trump administration had blocked military aid to the country when Trump pressed them for investigations into his political opponents.
Republicans have long claimed, including at the impeachment hearings, that there could not have been a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine because officials were unaware that the aid had been frozen.
Republicans claimed that Ukrainians only learned about the aid from an August Politico report and were unaware that the aid, which was allocated by Congress, had been blocked earlier.
The aid was inexplicably blocked at the behest of acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on the orders of President Trump.
Cooper, and other witnesses, described their efforts to get an explanation for the freeze and their attempts to get the aid released.
Cooper undercuts GOP claim:
Cooper earlier testified behind closed doors at a deposition but revealed to the House Intelligence Committee that her staff informed her after her previous testimony that they had received two emails from Ukrainian officials on July 25, the same day as Trump’s infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
"What is going on with Ukrainian security assistance?" a Ukrainian official asked a member of her staff, according to her testimony.
Cooper said she was not sure that the inquiry came because Ukraine was aware of the aid but added that they would not have reached out unless they had a specific reason.
"It's my experience with the Ukrainians they would call about specific things, not just generally checking in on the assistance package,” she said.
GOP defense evaporates:
“It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the Ukrainians reach out to the Pentagon, to Cooper and her staff, to get more information about why they hadn’t received the aid that same day,” wrote Washington Post columnist Amber Phillips. “This is just days after officials in the State Department learned the aid had been held up. Cooper said the Ukrainians ‘likely’ knew about the aid being held up then, too.”
“It is the earliest date we’ve heard so far that Ukrainians may have known their military assistance had been withheld,” she added. “It changes the game if Ukrainians were concerned about their aid being withheld when their president was talking to Trump. If the Ukrainians knew Trump had the ability to give them $400 million in military help when Trump asked Zelensky ‘a favor, though,’ it weakens a Republican defense that there couldn’t have been a quid pro quo evident in that request.”