Democrats release transcript of top Pentagon official as part of impeachment inquiry | TheHill

House Democrats released three new transcripts from closed-door depositions Monday as they charge toward the open hearing phase of their impeachment inquiry later this week.

The release included the transcript of Laura Cooper, a top Defense Department official who oversees Ukraine. She testified about the Trump administration’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in aid, which Democrats are examining as part of their investigation into whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE pressed Ukraine to help his own reelection bid in 2020.

Democrats also released the transcripts from joint depositions with Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson, two former assistants to former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker.

While all three are relatively minor witnesses, they offered information for House investigators who are trying to determine whether Trump used the aid or the promise of a White House meeting as leverage to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open probes into interference in the 2016 presidential election and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment Biden: ‘I’m more of a Democrat from my shoe sole to my ears’ than anyone else running MORE, one of his top 2020 political rivals.

Democrats subpoenaed Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, late last month to press her about any role the Pentagon may have played in withholding aid to Ukraine. 

Cooper’s testimony was primarily memorable for a GOP protest that delayed it.

A group of congressional Republicans protesting the closed-door depositions disrupted the scheduled hearing by storming the secure closed space in which the interview was set to be conducted. 

The protest successfully delayed the hearing by five hours as the roughly 20 GOP members who barged their way into the sensitive compartmented information facility refused to leave, even ordering boxes of pizza during lunchtime. 

Cooper began her scheduled deposition around 3 p.m., shortly after the House sergeant at arms was seen going alone into the secure room.  

Anderson testified about concerns he and others had regarding Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTop diplomat said request for specific probes in Ukraine was ‘contrary’ to US policy Press: Another billionaire need not apply Condoleezza Rice says reports of an unofficial US policy in Ukraine are ‘deeply troubling’ MORE‘s involvement in Ukraine policy. Anderson said officials feared the president’s personal lawyer was spreading a negative narrative about Ukraine and possibly create a “false perception” in Trump’s mind that Kyiv is not an ally, which could risk hurting their relationship.

Croft, a foreign service officer assigned to the White House, testified that Kyiv knew the aid was being withheld earlier than previously reported, saying officials at the Ukrainian Embassy twice approached her privately to inquire about the decision to withhold aid sometime after July 18 and before the August 28, adding that “they found out very early on or much earlier than I expected them to.” Both the U.S. and Ukraine, she testified, did not want news that the aid was being withheld because it would create doubt about their alliance.

The release of these transcripts come on the same week that Democrats are expected to hold their first series of open impeachment hearings, starting Wednesday.

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