A top Pentagon career official overseeing Ukraine policy is due to testify before the House impeachment inquiry on Wednesday, an appearance that takes place amid intense scrutiny over whether the White House sought to freeze military aid to Ukraine as part of an effort to pressure Kiev to investigate President Donald Trump’s political rivals.
Laura Cooper — the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia — is set to appear even though the Defense Department told Congress that it would not comply with a House subpoena to provide documents related to the freezing of US security aid to Ukraine.
Cooper is currently believed to be voluntarily appearing before the three House committees leading the Democratic impeachment inquiry and the Pentagon has not yet sought to block her testimony. She will be accompanied by a personal lawyer, according to defense officials.
As a top official overseeing US policy towards Ukraine, Cooper would have been involved with overseeing US military assistance to Kiev, assistance such as the $250 million aid package that was frozen by the Trump Administration despite the Pentagon’s recommendation that it go forward.
What motivated the White House to order that freeze has formed a central part of the impeachment inquiry into Trump.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon’s chief legal officer requested that Defense Department agencies identify, preserve and collect any and all documents relating to the provision of security assistance to Kiev.
On Tuesday, the top US diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor testified that he had been told Trump would withhold military aid to the country until it publicly declared investigations would be launched that could help his reelection chances — including into former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a copy of Taylor’s opening statement obtained by CNN.
Cooper first joined the Department of Defense in 2001. She held a series of posts at the Pentagon before taking on her current assignment.
She has been a vocal advocate for US support for Ukraine in the face of what she called the “threat from Russia,” telling an audience during a 2018 visit there that “going forward, the US intends to continue providing security assistance support to Ukraine across all domains, including maritime, by providing equipment to support its most critical operational needs.”
Her visit came shortly after Russian military forces seized Ukrainian vessels and sailors in the Kerch Strait.
“I want to be clear that the United States will remain committed to building the capacity of Ukraine’s military, to include its naval forces,” she added, citing progress Ukraine’s government had made in reforms as the reason the US would continue supporting its military.