LIVEBLOG: A Pompeo Aide And A Defense Department Ukraine Expert Testify

Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks during the impeachment inquiry before the House Intelligence Committee on November 13, 2019. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
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November 20, 2019 5:29 p.m.
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A long day of impeachment proceedings continues Wednesday with the testimonies of David Hale and Laura Cooper.

Hale is the highest ranking State Department official to testify so far, and he reports directly to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Cooper is the Defense Department’s Russia-Ukraine expert.

In his private deposition, Hale described the reluctance of the State Department — and of Pompeo in particular — to publicly support former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was smeared and ousted as part of the Ukraine pressure campaign.

Cooper meanwhile, testified privately about her view of the panic that ensued when the military assistance to Ukraine was put on hold.

Their testimonies in front of the House Intelligence Committee follow a dramatic hearing with EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

We will be blogging Cooper and Hale’s testimonies below:

6:35 p.m.: Hale told Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) that he was “not aware” of Pompeo having knowledge that the assistance and the request for investigations were linked.

6:33 p.m.: Schiff followed up on a GOP question for Hale, during which Hale had said that it’s not unusual for holds to be put on aid. Schiff asked if it would be unusual for a hold to be put on assistance as leverage to get a foreign country to investigate a political opponent. Hale said, yes. Schiff asked it it would be inappropriate. “That would be inconsistent with our foreign policy in general,” Hale said.

6:17 p.m.: Schiff asked Cooper about a conversation she had with Volker in August about the hold on military assistance. Cooper said that also in the conversation Volker discussed his effort to get the statement on investigations. Cooper testified that it was her “inference” that the announcement would lead to the hold on assistance being lifted.

6:12 p.m.: Cooper went beyond her prepared remarks to clarify some things she had learned since her deposition. The information came from her staff and had to deal with Ukraine’s awareness of the freeze on aid. Her staff received two emails on July 25, indicating that the Hill and Ukraine embassy were aware of or were raising questions about the situation with the assistance. A member from her staff also got a question from an embassy contact on that day asking, what was going on with Ukraine security assistance? And sometime between Aug. 6 and Aug. 10, her staff was told that a Ukrainian official may raise concerns about the assistance at an upcoming meeting, but ultimately it did not come up. Her staff told her that there were other meetings in August that Ukrainian officials raised the issues, but they could not locate records that would help them confirm the specifics of those meetings.

6:01 p.m.: In her opening statement, Cooper recounted learning of the hold on the aid and that the hold came from the President. “Let me say at the outset that I have never discussed this or any other matter with the President and never heard directly from him about this matter,” she said.

5:55 p.m.: Hale didn’t have a prepared opening statement. Instead he just rattled off a very brief biography of his roles at the State Department, noting that he’s served under Democratic and Republican administrations.

5:47 p.m.: Nunes’ opening statement begins with a complaint that Republicans haven’t been able call witnesses. Hale is, in fact, testifying publicly at Republicans’ request.

5:45 p.m.: Schiff’s opening statement recounted Cooper learning of the aid hold at a meeting where she was told “the White House chief of staff has conveyed that the President has concerns about Ukraine and Ukraine security assistance.”

5:44 p.m.: In his opening statement, Schiff described Hale as a “witness of the smear campaign” aimed at Yovanovitch.

5:39 p.m.: The witnesses have entered the hearing room. An official working the inquiry has already informed reporters that, after opening statements, we’ll go straight to five-minute member questions. That means no 45-minute round of questions from chair, ranking and their counsel.

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