WASHINGTON (AP) - 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.”
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.
“There was just this issue of the White House chief of staff has conveyed that the president has concerns about Ukraine,” she said.