America’s security establishment believed US military aid to Ukraine was vital and should not be jeopardised, a senior defence official told impeachment investigators probing Donald Trump.
Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defence, told members of Congress that her department was “concerned” with delaying aid to Ukraine.
“DoD was concerned about the obligation of funds. Policy, my team, we were also concerned about any signal that we would send to Ukraine about a wavering in our commitment,” she said.
She added: “And that’s another reason why, I mean, we did not want for this to be a big public discussion, you know, if we were about to get it turned back on again because we didn’t want to signal any lack of support.”
Ms Cooper told investigators that soon after a meeting of national security officials at the White House, she was visited by Kurt Volker, the US special envoy to Ukraine, who explained there was a “statement” that the Ukraine government could make to get the security money flowing.
Ms Cooper is the latest official whose private testimony has now been made public, as Democrats prepare for open testimony from three witnesses this week, starting on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump was subjected to chants of “lock him up” as he addressed New York City’s Veterans Day parade after hitting out at House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat spearheading the impeachment inquiry, accusing him of releasing “doctored transcripts” of witness depositions.
A lawyer for Lev Parnas, an associate of Mr Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, has meanwhile told The New York Times his client was tasked with offering Ukraine US military aid in exchange for a corruption investigation into 2020 candidate Joe Biden and his son.
As Mr Giuliani denies the claim, the president has called on his fellow Republicans not to fall into the “fools trap” of questioning his 25 July call with the country’s new president, Volodymyr Zelenksy.
Please look below to see how the day’s drama played out
Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.
Rudy Giuliani associate 'ordered to pressure Ukraine into promising Biden investigation'
A lawyer for Lev Parnas, an associate of Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, has told The New York Times his client was tasked with offering Ukraine US military aid in exchange for a corruption investigation into 2020 candidate Joe Biden and his son.
Soviet-born businessman Parnas is reportedly planning to tell House Democrats that he travelled to Kiev to warn the $400m (£312m) would be withheld and that vice president Mike Pence would not attend Volodymyr Zelensky's inauguration ceremony back in May unless the anti-corruption probe was publicly announced in order to embarrass the leading candidate to challenge Trump next year.
Giuliani sharply disputed Parnas's claim in a statement to The Times: declaring: "Categorically, I did not tell him to say that." The story also puts Parnas at odds with his own business partner Igor Fruman, who likewise denies the order was given.
Trump calls for Republican unity on impeachment messaging
President Trump has meanwhile been busy on Twitter calling on his fellow Republicans not to fall into the “fools trap” of questioning his 25 July call with Zelenksy, insisting once again that the exchange was “perfect” and that there is no need for its investigation by House Democrats.
The president has been busily pushing out anti-impeachment messaging from such friendly GOP congressmen as Doug Collins, Jim Jordan, Lee Zeldin and Mark Meadows and media allies like Jeanine Pirro and Dan Bongino on Fox as the investigation finally enters its public phase this week.
Acting US ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and State Department official George Kent will appear in televised hearings on Wednesday, followed by Taylor's predecessor Marie Yovanovitch on Friday. Those giving depositions so far have alleged the latter was forced out of office by a Giuliani smear campaign in May just prior to the push for the Biden investigation.
Phil Thomas has the latest.
Nikki Haley says Rex Tillerson, John Kelly tried to recruit her to undermine president
The administration’s former UN ambassador Nikki Haley has revealed that ex-secretary of state Rex Tillerson and former chief of staff John Kelly attempted to recruit her to an effort to undermine President Trump and “save the country”.
Interestingly, Trump has been promoting her new book from which the story comes, With All Due Respect, on Twitter, along with Triggered by Don Jr and a conspiracy pamphlet by Lee Smith. These recommendations coming from a man who considers his own (ghostwritten) business manual The Art of the Deal (1987) his favourite book of all time, with the Bible a close second (the latter never an entirely convincing statement).
Here's our report on Haley.
Trump threatens Iran over nuclear programme
The president also took to Twitter on Sunday night to encourage Iran to turn over a long-missing FBI agent and to threaten Tehran over the resumption of uranium enrichment.
Here's the latest on the country's new nuclear reactor.
Don Jr booed off stage at UCLA on Triggered book tour
The president's eldest son, Don Jr, was booed offstage by his own side at UCLA over the weekend as he attempted to promote his aforementioned book.
Don Jr was speaking at an event put on by conservative pressure group Turning Point USA but the crowd turned restless when it emerged he would not take part in a Q&A session despite having used his speech to advocate the importance of standing up to authority.
“You’re not making your parents proud by being rude and disruptive and discourteous,” Trump Jr's girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, told the protesters. “I bet you engage and go on online dating because you’re impressing no one here to get a date in person.”
Jon Sharman has more.
House impeachment evidence indicates 'extortion scheme' involving president
On the Sunday shows, California congressman Eric Swalwell told CBS's Margaret Brennan the evidence accumulated by the House impeachment inquiry indicates what amounts to an "extortion scheme" being carried out on behalf of the president to pressure Ukraine into investigating his domestic opponents.
We have enough evidence from the depositions that we’ve done to warrant bringing this forward. Evidence of an extortion scheme, using taxpayer dollars to ask a foreign government to investigate the president’s opponent.
But it’s important that these witnesses raise their right hands and take questions from both Republicans and Democrats. The president is going to get that.
Here's Phil Thomas's report.
Republicans argue inquiry 'invalid' without whistleblower testimony, Trump had 'every right' to pressure Ukraine
On Fox yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham told Maria Bartiromo that the impeachment inquiry is "invalid" and "dead on arrival" without testimony by the CIA whistleblower at the heart of the case and from Hunter Biden, whose career on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma remains a Republican obesession.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, for his part, disagrees with Graham, calling the idea "redundant" and "unnecessary", according to Axios.
On Meet the Press, Kentucky senator Rand Paul told Chuck Todd the president had "every right" to withhold military aid from Ukraine.
Paul last week loudly demanded that the anonymous whistleblower be unmasked by the media - Don Jr and other alt-right cronies did name their suspect on Twitter - and blocked a Senate resolution put forward by minority leader Chuck Schumer and Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono reaffirming support for safeguarding those who dare to come forward to denounce malpractice.
Deposition transcripts released last week meanwhile revealed angry clashes between Republican and Democratic congressman over the former's attempts to expose the complainant during the testimony of Lt Col Alexander Vindman on Capitol Hill.
But fellow Republican Will Hurd, a member of Schiff's committee, broke ranks with Paul to call for the whistleblower to be protected in conversation with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.
Republican senator toasted for parroting Trump line on Ukraine
On CNN's State of the Union yesterday, host Jake Tapper interrupted Republican senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, to correct him when he repeated a Trump lie that the Ukraine military aid was held up over concerns the EU was not making an equivalent contribution to Kiev's cause.
Tapper told Johnson, after he had parroted the president's argument:
It’s not true that Europe doesn’t help the Ukraine - this is not you saying it, it’s President Trump. I just want our viewers to know. I want to correct the one thing that President Trump said.
Because the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development says that the EU contributed $425.2m (£331.5m) on average for 2016/2017. The US was second with $204m (£159m).
Again, I’m not fact-checking you - the president’s impression is incorrect.
Here's Phil Thomas's report.
Anthony Scaramucci labels Trump 'traitor to the United States'
The Mooch was also at it again yesterday, telling Brian Stelter on CNN's Reliable Sources the president has betrayed the Constitution and become a "traitor to the laws of the United States."
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