WASHINGTON, DC — Two top U.S State Department officials who testified during the first public impeachment inquiry hearing on Wednesday acknowledged that Ukraine was unaware of the American military hold on aid during the July 25 call, suggesting that a quid pro quo at the center of the probe against President Donald Trump would have been impossible at the time.
Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) asked the witnesses whether the Ukrainians were aware of the security assistance freeze at the time of the July 25 call between President Donald Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, a conversation that spawned the impeachment probe.
“Not to my knowledge,” responded both witnesses — U.S. Acting Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state charged with overseeing the U.S. policy towards the Eastern European country.
Their denial suggests Trump could not have pressured Ukraine to investigate anyone by threatening to withhold an unknown during the July 25 call, the contents of which were the bulk of a complaint filed by a “whistleblower” that ultimately triggered the impeachment inquiry.
Ratcliffe has participated in the public and closed-door impeachment inquiry hearings.
“July 25 is a week after the hold was put on the security assistance. And [on] July 25, they had a conversation between the two presidents, where it was not discussed,” Taylor told Ratcliffe during his closed-door deposition on October 22.
Ukraine did not find out there was a hold on U.S. aid until over a month after the call by way of an August 28 Politico article, Taylor testified, echoing other witnesses.
Other impeachment witnesses, however – namely Catherine Croft from State and Laura Cooper, a Ukraine expert at the Pentagon – told House impeachment investigators during their deposition last month that Ukrainians knew of the hold before the information became public.
The Washington Post, which reported on the Cooper and Croft revelation, did not provide a specific date for when Ukrainians allegedly found out.
At the heart of the impeachment probe is the “whistleblower’ complaint accusing Trump of engaging in a quid pro quo in which the U.S. leader pressured Zelensky during the July 25 call to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and son Hunter in exchange for aid.
House Democrats are trying to determine if Trump abused his power by making a quid pro quo offer to Ukraine to launch a corruption probe against the Bidens in return for security assistance.
Ratcliffe and other Republicans argue that a quid pro quo would be impossible during the call without Ukraine knowing that the United States had frozen aid.
“You can’t have a quid pro quo without no quo,” Trump cited Ratcliffe as saying afterward.
Neither he (Taylor) or any other witness has provided testimony that the Ukrainians were aware that military aid was being withheld. You can’t have a quid pro quo with no quo.” Congressman John Ratcliffe @foxandfriends Where is the Whistleblower? The Do Nothing Dems case is DEAD!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2019
The U.S. ended up releasing the aid to Ukraine on September 11 without the Eastern European country doing anything in return.
There are signs that Democrats are trying to expand the impeachment probe beyond the Ukraine-linked quid pro quo, which they and their backers now admit has evolved possibly into bribery and extortion. It appears Democrats are engaged in a fishing expedition to remove Trump at any cost, with the ultimate aim of overturning the 2016 elections about a year before U.S. voters go to the polls again. In an ironic twist, the Democrats’ impeachment probe to find out if Trump attempted to interfere in the 2020 presidential race is already interfering in the presidential elections.