The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry
House Republicans will have a conference meeting Tuesday evening, where members will discuss the upcoming impeachment hearings, according to two House GOP sources.
One House Republican speaking on the condition of anonymity outlined their focus for this week:
“The fact GOP House members voted unanimously to push against the inquiry was huge,” he said. “The unanimous effort also helped the Senate’s position to solidify as well. We will continue to ask for the whistleblower and Hunter Biden to testify.”
State Department official Christopher Anderson, a former aide to former US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, testified that Volker told him that he didn’t think President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani would move on from the Ukraine issue.
”I understood what he was saying, that if we — we shouldn't hope that he'lI focus on something else and move on to another issue, he's going to keep raising this issue,” Anderson said.
Anderson said it was his understanding that Volker believed Giuliani’s involvement “was an obstacle to improving relations and putting pressure on Russia.”
State Department official Catherine Croft backed up the claim that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was involved in Ukraine policy, which former National Security Council official Fiona Hill also shone light on in her testimony.
While Croft did not give specific examples, she said she knew that Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Mulvaney were in touch because Sondland’s staff would tell her that.
She also said that Sondland “somehow knew him” with regard to Mulvaney, indicating the possibility of a previous relationship there, but not one that she ever got the details on.
Catherine Croft, a State Department adviser on Ukraine, testified that the Office of Management and Budget placed an earlier hold on Javelin missiles to Ukraine because OMB Director Mick Mulvaney was concerned “Russia would react negatively to the provision of Javelins to Ukraine,” despite the fact that “all of the other policy agencies were in support.”
She told lawmakers that OMB put a hold on the Javelin provision in late 2017and early 2018 and that it was a policy decision that centered around the question of Russia’s reaction. Mulvaney raised concerns about Russia’s reaction, according to Croft.
Croft and Richard Hooker, a senior director in the National Security Council, briefed Mulvaney on the decision.
According to Croft, “In a briefing with Mr. Mulvaney, the question centered around the Russian reaction.” Mulvaney was concerned “that Russia would react negatively to the provision of Javelins to Ukraine.”
“I can broadly say that all of the policy agencies were in support,” she said. Asked if she meant in support of providing the Javelins, Croft responded: “Correct.”
“The lone objector in the paper PC on the Javelin decision was OMB,” Croft told lawmakers, adding that not providing the missiles to Ukraine would be in Russia’s interest.
Croft said that the hold was ultimately lifted after Mulvaney was told all the agencies were in agreement to provide the missiles and his concerns about Russia’s reaction was addressed.
State Department official Catherine Croft testified that she was “trepidatious” about accepting the job as special assistant to former US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker because “it was possible that the Trump administration would choose to change its policy to suit domestic politics.”
Croft said she "speculated" in a conversation with diplomat Bill Taylor about the effect of a potential Joe Biden candidacy and that "it seemed logical to me that in an attempt to counter the narrative about Russian support for the Trump administration in the 2016 election or Russian interference in the 2016 election that—that it would be useful to shift that narrative by shifting it to Ukraine as being in support of the Clintons."
She thought that "painting sort of Ukraine as being against Trump would help distract from a narrative or balance out a narrative that he had gotten help in the 2016 election from Russia."
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper relayed that individuals at the Department of Defense and other agencies believed Ukraine was making progress in combatting corruption, enough to continue providing the aid being challenged by the Office of Management and Budget.
“(I)n interagency discussions, DOD participants affirmed that we believed sufficient progress had been made,” Cooper said.
Asked if it wasn’t just Defense Department participants who believed that the funds should flow to Ukraine during these meetings, Cooper responded, “That’s correct. It was unanimous with the exception of the statements by OMB representatives, and those statements were relaying higher level guidance.”
She said that had been the case during all four interagency meetings on the issue.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper told members of Congress that Department of Defense personnel in Kiev were “expressing serious concerns” about withholding aid.
Cooper said that during the summer when the fate of the aid was in question, “our team in Kyiv was acutely aware of the hold and was expressing serious concerns to us.”
She clarified that those concerns were relayed to her in-person.
In today's episode of "The Daily DC: Impeachment Watch" podcast, CNN's Zachary Wolf looks at:
- How impeachment is playing out on the 2020 campaign trail
- How Democrats are taking their case for impeachment public and presenting it to the American people
- The Republicans' call for the whistleblower to be known and to testify
- Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney who has asked a court to allow him to join a lawsuit about the House subpoena power over White House witnesses in the impeachment probe
Wolf is joined today by Jeff Zeleny, CNN's senior Washington correspondent, and Julie Pace, CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper said that former National Security Council official Fiona Hill expressed concern about “kind of a parallel process” for foreign policy “multiple times,” but that she doesn’t recall Hill did not specifically mention President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani by name.
“I heard her remarks on multiple occasions that there was a separate track handling foreign policy. I don't recall her specifying Giuliani by name; but she did multiple times express concern that there was kind of a parallel process to the one that she was handling,” Cooper said.
“And, I mean, the way she characterized it was the challenge of managing and, you know, coordinating an interagency process when there are those who work outside of that process and have engagements with foreign officials that, you know, people inside the process are unaware of,” she added.