WASHINGTON (AP) — The view among the national security officials was unanimous: Military aid to Ukraine should not be stopped by the White House.
That was the testimony of Laura Cooper, a Defense Department official, whose deposition was released Monday in the House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
“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,” she said. “And they were trying to find ways to engage the President on this.”
Cooper told investigators that soon after that meeting of national security officials at the White House, she was visited by Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, who 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 the quid pro quo that is now the central question of the impeachment inquiry — the administration’s push for the Ukraine government to investigate Trump’s political rivals.
“Somehow an effort that he was engaged in to see if there was a statement that the government of Ukraine would make,” said Cooper, an assistant defense secretary, “that would somehow disavow any interference in U.S. elections and would commit to the prosecution of any individuals involved in election interference.”
House Democrats are moving forward with the first live, public hearings of the impeachment inquiry this week.
The House is investigating whether Trump violated his oath of office by pushing Ukraine’s president to investigate Democrats, including Joe Biden, while the administration was withholding military funds for the East European ally.
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. She also described Foreign Military Financing, or FMF.
“Security assistance is vital to helping the Ukrainians be able to defend themselves,” Cooper said.
“It is also within the U.S. national interest to provide security assistance to Ukraine,” she added.
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 and Mike Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.