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Mulvaney objected to 2017 Ukrainian aid package, says State Dept. official

Additional closed-door deposition transcripts from the impeachment inquiry were released Monday. Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Defense, testified during her appearance that her colleagues questioned whether aid appropriated by Congress for Ukraine could legally be frozen by President Trump. Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It has been another day of new twists and hundred more pages of documents released in the impeachment inquiry.

    Our Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor are here to help us break it all down and understand it.

    So, to both of you, hello.

    This has all happened just in the last couple of hours. In fact, one of these sets of transcripts, Lisa, has come just within the hour.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So the two of you have been scrambling to catch up, to read the transcript.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So let's talk about these former — these are former State Department and former Defense Department officials.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    And let's start with Laura Cooper. She's a Defense Department official, which is a unique perspective here . Usually, you have been hearing from the diplomats. She is the deputy assistant defense secretary, specializes in Russia. She says that's where she spends most of her time.

    But she also works on long-term strategy for Russia and for Ukraine. She has been with the Defense Department since 2001, but she says this year at one point almost all of her time was spent on Ukraine because of what was happening.

    In her transcript, which, as you say, we have just got, we learned that there was high concern and surprise when the aid money to Ukraine was being frozen. The Department of Justice — Department of Defense was one of the last to sign off on that. They did sign off in June.

    She said, when they learned it was frozen — that is something she oversees — no one understood it, and, even more, Judy — this is interesting — she says seniors involved in that process questioned if they legally could freeze it, because Congress had already appropriated those millions of dollars, and it was ready to go.

    They weren't sure even the president had the ability to stop that money from flowing to Ukraine.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And this backs up other testimony that had been given by others.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It does. No one was sure why the money was being frozen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, as we mentioned, still more testimony from current State Department and one former State Department official.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes.

    So the next person whose transcript was released today is Christopher Anderson. He's a special adviser for Ukraine negotiations. He's also a career Foreign Service officer. And he was an aid to Kurt Volker, who was the U.S. envoy to Ukraine at the time.

    So, he says that he essentially is filling in the gaps with this irregular channel that Rudy Giuliani and others had when it comes to our relationship with Ukraine and the U.S. policy with Ukraine. He says that Rudy Giuliani was seen as an obstacle to both increasing relationship with Ukraine, but also as an obstacle when it comes to pressuring Russia.

    The other thing is that he has a conversation with William Taylor. Now, that is the current U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. And they both say, look, we shouldn't be pushing for any sort of individual investigation.

    They don't mention the Bidens by name, but they say anything having to do with that is really not something that the U.S. should be involved in. He does, of course, also say that he didn't actually hear Kurt Volker, which, again, is the U.S. envoy to Ukraine — the U.S. envoy to Ukraine.

    He didn't actually hear him say that there was any sort of investigation that needed to be done with the Bidens or with Burisma, which is, of course, the company that Hunter Biden was working for.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, yet another set of transcripts.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    So the woman without took over from Christopher Anderson is named Catherine Croft. She was then the next adviser to Kurt Volker. She is also a special adviser for Ukraine negotiations.

    Now, a couple of things about her. As you see, she also worked on Ukraine issues for the National Security Council. Nine years, she has under her belt, as a matter of fact, as a career Foreign Service officer.

    Now, what is interesting is, she took over from the man Yamiche was just talking about in July. That is right as all of this was starting to happen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the middle of this.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In the middle of this.

    She said Kurt Volker told her he was going to try and keep her out of the Giuliani mess. However, she also said Kurt Volker came to her about this idea of asking Ukraine for an investigation and asked her, have we ever done this before, meaning has the United States ever asked another country for an investigation like this?

    It was that exceptional to them.

    One other note. The timeline just expanded with her testimony. She said that the first — there was another package of Ukrainian aid back in 2017. At that point, one agency had objected to that Ukrainian aid. It was Mick Mulvaney, when he ran the Office of Management of Budget.

    And she testifies that Mulvaney didn't like the aid then because he was worried about what Russia would think. The whole point of this aid is to protect Ukraine from Russian aggression. But here was Mulvaney trying to protect — or worried about what Russia thought.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    With a different set of priorities.

    And just quickly, Yamiche, Mick Mulvaney, speaking of him, over the weekend, we learned he is trying to join the lawsuit by former National Security Adviser John Bolton and his deputy, Charles Kupperman, who are appealing whether they should testify before Congress.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So, the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, is very important to this, a lot for the reasons that Lisa just pointed out.

    There are officials and witnesses pointing to Mick Mulvaney in their testimony, saying he was part of the White House strategy, he was the one that was having these conversations.

    Now Mick Mulvaney is essentially saying, look, I want the courts to decide whether or not I should have to testify before Congress.

    That is controversial because he works just a few feet away from the president of the United States. And, essentially, the White House is telling him, we don't want you to show up to Congress.

    But if the courts essentially tell Mick Mulvaney to show up, he is now saying, I might show up. That is going to be very problematic for his relationship with President Trump.

    The other thing to note is all the politics is that Mick Mulvaney is being seen as on the outs with the president. This is someone who still has an acting title in his title. He's not — he's acting chief of staff, not permanent chief of staff.

    And, as a result, people think that this is also maybe possibly a warning to President Trump that I could go to Congress and tell things about you if you don't essentially bring me back into the inner circle.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Very fast-moving, as we are now just a little more than a day away from these public hearings.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And a lot of fast work on the part of both of you.

    Thank you, Lisa. Thank you, Yamiche.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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