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  • Protesters hold an impeach sign as U.S. President Donald Trump attends the Veterans Day Parade in New York, U.S., November 11, 2019.

    Protesters hold an impeach sign as U.S. President Donald Trump attends the Veterans Day Parade in New York, U.S., November 11, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 11 November 2019 (18 hours 37 minutes ago)

This comes as the first on-camera hearings in the investigation are set for Wednesday and Friday.

A senior Pentagon official testified Monday that confusion and concern were shared by United States national security officials after the White House blocked aid to Ukraine without explanation, according to testimony released from the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump.

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"My sense is that all of the senior leaders of the U.S. national security departments and agencies were all unified in their - in their view that this assistance was essential,"  Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper said, adding that “they were trying to find ways to engage the president on this."

Cooper deposition was released Monday in the House impeachment inquiry of Trump. 

The congressional panel also released testimony on Monday from Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson, both advisers to Ambassador Kurt Volker on Ukraine policy, who described their concerns about the Trump administration’s Ukraine policy. Volker was Trump’s special representative for Ukraine negotiations until he resigned in September.

This comes as the first on-camera hearings in the investigation are set for Wednesday and Friday, when U.S. diplomats William Taylor, George Kent, and Marie Yovanovitch are due to detail in public their concerns, previously expressed in testimony behind closed doors.

As the impeachment inquiry enters a new phase, last week U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, admitted in a revised version of his earlier testimony that in fact, he told a Ukrainian official the U.S. would withhold aid unless they pursued investigations against Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden demanded by President Donald Trump.

The updated version of Sondland’s testimony came as the diplomat, who initially testified in October to the Democratic-led congressional inquiry, offered new details to lawmakers after his memory was “refreshed.”

The details now appear to reinforce the initial whistleblower complaint that led to the investigation by three U.S. House of Representatives committees. The testimony also corroborates other witnesses who said Trump sought to pressure the Ukrainians into conducting investigations that appeared to be aimed at helping his re-election campaign.

The Ukraine scandal is the result of a whistleblower from within the U.S. intelligence community lodging a complaint with an internal watchdog about Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The July 25 call, which was later released by the White House, confirmed that the U.S. president asked Zelenskiy to investigate his political rival in coordination with the U.S. attorney general and Trump’s personal lawyer,  which in turn occurred after Trump had ordered a freeze of nearly US$400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine, which the administration only later released.

Trump has denied he did this to get leverage or blackmail Zelenskiy. Federal election law prohibits candidates from accepting foreign help in an election.

Following the scandal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives was moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry of Trump, adding the “the actions revealed the dishonorable fact of the President's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections." 

Under the U.S. Constitution, the House has the power to impeach a president for “high crimes and misdemeanors” and the Senate then holds a trial on whether to remove the president from office. No president has ever been removed from office through impeachment. Democrats currently control the House and Republicans control the Senate.

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