National security officials objected to stopping Ukraine aid

National security officials objected to stopping Ukraine aid

WASHINGTON — 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 hold-up. 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 defence 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 favour— 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 Defence 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.

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 defence 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.

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.

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.

“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.

__

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

Lisa Mascaro And Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press

Impeachment

Just Posted

Pumpjacks draw oil out of the ground near Olds, Alta., Thursday, July 16, 2020. A new report suggests the economic impact of the pandemic led to a massive increase in federal aid to Canada's oil patch. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta economy ‘still reeling,’ says ATB Financial

Alberta’s economy is still feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and… Continue reading

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
Central Alberta MLAs comment on UCP members kicked out of caucus

A pair of central Alberta MLAs have commented on the two United… Continue reading

Contributed photo
Johanna Hannaford: Central Alberta designer offers inclusive clothing

By Stephanie Rhodes Local designer Johanna Hannaford’s inclusive clothing creations are smashing… Continue reading

Conservative MP Ron Liepert rises during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Friday, March 10, 2017 in Ottawa. Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails from people wanting to talk about his party's climate plan have slowed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Alberta MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

OTTAWA — Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails… Continue reading

A sign marks Stairs Place in the Hydrostone district in the North end of Halifax on Thursday, May 13, 2021. The street was named for William Grant Stairs, a Canadian explorer from Halifax who helped lead some of the most controversial expeditions through the African continent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Where the streets have explorers’ names, some Halifax residents call for change

HALIFAX — When builders created Halifax’s distinctive Hydrostone neighbourhood more than a… Continue reading

Riley Oldford, 16, suffers from cerebral palsy. He was the first youth in the Northwest Territories to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Here he receives the needle from nurse practitioner Janie Neudorf in Yellowknife on Thursday May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Braden
People with disabilities even more alone during pandemic: cerebral palsy spokeswoman

YELLOWKNIFE — Riley Oldford is usually out playing sledge hockey or hanging… Continue reading

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

VICTORIA — Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have… Continue reading

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) comes in to celebrate with right wing Tom Wilson (43), right wing T.J. Oshie (77) and defenseman Justin Schultz (2), after Oshie's overtime goal in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins, Saturday, May 15, 2021, in Washington. The Capitals won 3-2. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Nic Dowd scores in OT, Capitals beat Bruins 3-2 in Game 1

Capitals 3 Bruins 2 (OT) (Washington leads series 1-0) WASHINGTON (AP) —… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Zack MacEwen (71), Travis Boyd (72) and Jimmy Vesey (24) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 15, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

Canucks 4 Oilers 1 EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Canada’s vaccine rollout operation won’t miss a beat with new military leader: expert

DARTMOUTH — The sudden departure of the senior military officer in charge… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec premier argues province has power to amend constitution in letter to Trudeau

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault has written a letter to Prime… Continue reading

Most Read