- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense, told lawmakers Wednesday night Ukrainians may have been aware of the hold on security assistance during the July 25th Trump-Zelensky phone call that launched House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

In her opening statement Ms. Cooper, the DOD official overseeing Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs, said after her deposition she learned of two emails directed to the State Department noting people in the Ukrainian embassy and on Capitol Hill knew about the delay of aid.

She also became aware that a Ukrainian contact emailed one of her staffers asked about the aid on July 25th.

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Rep. John Ratcliffe pushed back on this revelation, asking if the emails necessarily referred to the delay on military assistance or meant the Ukrainians were aware of that.

“Not necessarily,” Ms. Cooper said. “It’s the recollection of my staff that they likely knew [before August].”

“It’s not unusual, is it Ms. Cooper, for foreign countries to inquire about foreign aid?” the Texas Republican continued.

“In my experience with the Ukrainians, they typically would call about specific things, not just generally checking in on their assistance package,” she said.

Her staff had meetings with Ukrainian embassy staff during August where the topic of aid came up, but Ms. Cooper didn’t have many details on those discussions.

“Your staff at least gleaned from those conversations that the Ukrainian was aware that there was some kind of a hold on the assistance?” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff asked.

“The way I would phrase it is there was some kind of an ‘issue,’” she said.

Several witnesses have testified that they believed the Ukrainians became aware of the delay on aid by the time a Politico article on the matter became public in late August.

Ms. Cooper is the first witness to suggest it could stretch back to the time of the call at the center of the inquiry.

One key element of the GOP’s defense was that the Ukrainians didn’t know about the hold on military assistance and therefore it couldn’t be used as leverage for the investigations.

Ms. Cooper also told lawmakers that the Defense Department determined Ukraine had met all the requirements for combating corruption required to receive aid.

“We did not understand,” Ms. Cooper said about the delay. “I do not know what triggered the release of the funding.”

Republicans have argued that part of the reason Mr. Trump withheld aid was because of Ukraine’s reputation for corruption.

For its part, the GOP focused on having both witnesses testify about the importance of lethal aid that the Trump administration instituted for Ukraine.

“It was very robust,” Under Secretary of State David Hale said.

Mr. Hale also said that it was not normal — but also not unheard of — to not give an official reason for delaying military assistance.

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