Defense official testifies Ukraine was aware of issues with aid in July

A Department of Defense official testified on Wednesday that Ukraine was aware of potential issues with U.S. security assistance in July, earlier than previously known.

Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia and Ukraine, told the House Intelligence Committee that her staff received emails on July 25 in which the State Department said the Ukrainian Embassy and House Foreign Affairs Committee were “asking about security assistance.”

July 25 is the same day Trump spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The heavily scrutinized rough transcript of the call shows Trump urging Zelensky to look into the 2016 U.S. election and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGabbard says she won't participate in next debate even if she qualifies House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday FBI head rejects claims of Ukrainian 2016 interference MORE and his son Hunter Biden.

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Cooper further testified that her staff had meetings in August with Ukrainian representatives and that the topic of security assistance came up. 

Asked whether Ukraine was aware there was a hold on aid during those meetings, Cooper clarified that the Ukrainians knew “there was some kind of an issue.”

Cooper's disclosure of new correspondence could prove a blow to a main GOP line of defense, which is that the hold on Ukraine aid was ultimately lifted and that the Ukrainians were not aware of the freeze in funding early enough for there to have been a quid pro quo.

The hold on Ukrainian security assistance has been a key point in the impeachment inquiry. Each witness has said they opposed putting a hold on the aid, which is critical to countering Russian aggression, but no witness has definitively said they knew who ordered it be frozen.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyDemocrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Gaetz defends Ukraine call: Trump acted on 'sincere' concerns of corruption Judiciary Democrat says House should focus on Ukraine, avoid Mueller report in articles of impeachment MORE told reporters last month that aid was held up because of concerns about corruption in Ukraine, whether other countries were contributing security support and whether Ukraine was cooperating with a U.S. Department of Justice investigation.

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Cooper on Wednesday recalled a July 3 email a Pentagon staff member received from the State Department indicating the congressional notification for security assistance was “being blocked” by the Office of Management and Budget at the White House.

Cooper testified last month in a private deposition. She said her staff made her aware of the emails after she had already given her closed-door testimony but that none of the emails were brought to her attention at the time they were sent.

Politico first reported in late August that the Trump administration had frozen aid for Ukraine, irking lawmakers who had appropriated the funds to counter Russian aggression. 

The aid was ultimately released on Sept. 11. Cooper said Wednesday she did not know what triggered the release of the funding.