U.S. lawmakers overseeing the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump’s actions towards Ukraine will hear more closed door testimony Wednesday from a high-ranking official.
Laura Cooper is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. She is expected to testify about $250 million in military aid for Ukraine that had been held up by the White House, despite the Pentagon’s insistence that it be released.
Cooper’s testimony comes one day after the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine told lawmakers he was told the White House would only free military aid to Ukraine if it publicly promised to investigate Ukraine and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
Acting U.S. Ambassador William B. Taylor’s closed-door testimony in the Trump impeachment inquiry contradicts the president’s assertion that there was no “quid pro quo” with Ukraine. But the White House continues to deny there was any such arrangement.
“Today was just more triple hearsay and selective leaks from the Democrats’ politically motivated closed-door secretive hearings. Every day this nonsense continues, more taxpayer time and money is wasted,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement late Tuesday.
Ambassador Taylor repeated his belief that it was “crazy” to make badly needed military aid to Ukraine contingent on Kyiv’s promise to investigate alleged corruption by ex-U.S. Vice President Biden.
Taylor said in his opening statement that he had a telephone conversation with U.S. Ambassador to the EU and Trump campaign donor Gordon Sondland, who testified last week.
“During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants (Ukrainian) President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.”
Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, sat on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company. Trump alleges that when Biden was vice president, he threatened to hold up loan guarantees to Ukraine unless it stopped an earlier corruption probe of Burisma.
But there has never been any evidence of corruption by the Bidens. Allegations that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Democrats was based on a debunked conspiracy theory.
Taylor said Sondland told him Trump wanted Zelenskiy “in a public box by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.”
According to Taylor, Sondland admitted he made a “mistake” when he told Ukrainian officials that only a White House meeting with Trump depended on Zelenskiy publicly promising investigations.
“In fact, Ambassador Sondland said ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance,” Taylor added.
Sondland had earlier said when he told other diplomats Trump insisted there would be no “quid pro quo” with Ukraine, he was actually repeating what Trump told him what to say in a telephone call.
Democratic-led House committees are holding closed-door hearings to decide whether to recommend Trump’s impeachment in part for allegedly reaching out to a foreign government to interfere in a U.S. election.
Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz called Taylor’s testimony “The most damning testimony I’ve heard.”