A top State Department official will testify on Wednesday that political considerations were behind the department’s decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine, the Associated Press reported.
David Hale will reportedly tell congressional investigators Wednesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials were concerned that a public defense of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch would hurt the department’s chances of getting hundreds of millions of dollars in military funding to Ukraine. Trump temporarily stalled the release of the congressionally approved aid earlier this year. Many top officials have testified that Trump withheld the funds because he wanted the country to investigate the 2016 election and his own political rivals. Trump claims he stalled releasing it to try to force European countries to contribute more to Ukraine’s defense.
According to people familiar with the matter who spoke to the AP, Hale will also testify that the department was worried Trump or his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani might react poorly if the department defended Yovanovitch, whom Giuliani was hell-bent on ousting from her post in Ukraine.
Yovanovitch has already told House investigators leading the impeachment inquiry that the State Department ignored her requests for public support as Trump and Giuliani waged a public war against her. Giuliani reportedly wanted Yovanovitch out of Kyiv because her anti-corruption efforts stood in the way of his ongoing campaign to get the Ukrainian government to investigate the Biden family. Hale is expected to help explain why the State Department refused to defend Yovanovitch and opted as consolation to privately ask Fox News host Sean Hannity to ease up on his criticism of the Ukrainian envoy, Yovanovitch said in her testimony. Hannity denies that he was ever contacted by the State Department.
According to the AP, Hale will also tell lawmakers that he attempted to distance himself from the conflict by removing himself from emails discussing Yovanovitch or not replying to emails requesting a public defense of the diplomat.