Laura Cooper isn’t a household name – even after her testimony Wednesday in front of the House Intelligence Committee.
But something the deputy assistant secretary of defense revealed fundamentally questions a long-held pillar of President Donald Trump’s argument against the idea of a quid pro quo with Ukraine, which is that the Ukrainians – up to and including President Volodymyr Zelensky – had no idea military aid was being withheld when the two men talked on July 25. Therefore, according to Trump’s argument, a quid pro quo couldn’t exist.
But Cooper detailed three interactions on July 25 that make clear the Ukrainians were already aware of the hold-up in aid. At 2:31 p.m., an email from the State Department came to Cooper that read “Ukrainian embassy and House foreign affairs committee are asking about security assistance.” Then another email two hours later, again from State, that made clear that “the Hill knows about the FMF (foreign military financing) situation to an extent and so does the Ukrainian embassy.” And then, on that same day, Cooper said “a member of my staff got a question from a Ukraine embassy contact asking what was going on with Ukraine security assistance.”
By the next day – July 26 – US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was on the phone with Trump telling the President that the Ukrainians were ready to announce the investigations that had been clearly established as a precondition to, at a minimum, securing the White House meeting Zelensky so craved.
Those facts from Cooper blow a hole in the carefully crafted timeline presented by Trump and the White House. If the Ukrainians were already aware of the military hold in late July – and knew their desired meeting with Trump was being held up because of the lack of an announcement of the investigations Trump wanted – then the idea that there could be no quid pro quo is out the window.
As is Trump’s repeated citing of the September 9 call with Sondland, in which the President made clear (as he tweeted on Wednesday afternoon):
“Impeachment Witch Hunt is now OVER! Ambassador Sondland asks U.S. President (me): ‘What do you want from Ukraine? I keep hearing all these different ideas & theories. What do you want? It was a very abrupt conversation. He was not in a good mood. He (the President) just said, ‘I WANT NOTHING! I WANT NOTHING! I WANT NO QUID PRO QUO! TELL PRESIDENT ZELENSKY TO DO THE RIGHT THING!’ Later, Ambassador Sondland said that I told him, ‘Good, go tell the truth!’ This Witch Hunt must end NOW. So bad for our Country!”
It’s also worth noting here that by the time Trump had that call with Sondland on September 9, it had been a week since acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire had informed the White House counsel’s office that a whistleblower complaint had been filed in regard to Trump’s phone call with Zelensky and the broader administration’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations.
The timeline is of critical import to Trump’s paper-thin defenses. It’s the foundation of the argument that there couldn’t possibly be a quid pro quo because Zelensky and the Ukrainians weren’t aware of the military aid hold-up. Now, at least according to the emails Cooper produced, that doesn’t seem accurate.