Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale will testify Wednesday afternoon at the House Intelligence Committee’s sixth public hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry.
The senior State Department official was called in to testify in a closed-door session earlier this month about the bureaucracy’s alleged failure to defend embattled former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
The Associated Press, quoting “[p]eople familiar with the matter,” reported Nov. 6 that Hale would testify that “political considerations were behind the agency’s refusal to deliver a robust defense” of Yovanovitch against allegations that she had been bad-mouthing President Donald Trump. The AP added that Hale “planned to say Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior officials determined that publicly defending ousted Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch would hurt the effort to free up U.S. military assistance to Ukraine.”
However, Hale offered a much milder version of events. He speculated that Pompeo had decided not to issue a statement of support for Yovanovitch, but for the rather mundane reason that the department hoped that the whole controversy would eventually blow over.
Moreover, Hale offered several new pieces of evidence that support the president’s defense against impeachment.
One is the fact that the U.S. held up aid to Lebanon at roughly the same time, and in the same manner, as it held up aid for Ukraine. Contrary to Democrats’ claims that the administration singled out Ukraine for the president’s own personal and political reasons, Hale seemed to suggest that Trump’s actions were part of a “long overdue” policy of paying closer attention to where foreign aid was going and how it was being spent. Hale, like many other witnesses, also testified that there had been no link between aid to Ukraine and the investigations that Trump had requested.
Key Democrat Talking Points
1. Democrats will point to Hale’s testimony that the president’s personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, seemed to be involved in the spreading of false information about Yovanovitvh, who was eventually fired.
- What Democrats aren’t telling you: Hale also testified that it was “not unprecedented” that a president would rely on private individuals for help in foreign affairs: “I do believe that it’s safe to say that Presidents have relied upon people who he trusts or — he trusts to — for certain initiatives.” Hale also agreed that having Giuliani involved in foreign diplomacy was “not necessarily in and of itself concerning.”
2. Democrats have maintained throughout the impeachment inquiry that President Trump took no interest in general corruption in Ukraine. Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) tried to argue during Hale’s deposition that even in the context of a general review of foreign aid, the hold on aid to Ukraine was mysterious and unique.
- What Democrats aren’t telling you: The administration also withheld aid to Lebanon. Hale testified: “There was information that came to me starting in late June that a hold had been placed on both Ukraine assistance and Lebanon military assistance without any explanation on those, about those holds; that’s correct.”
3. Democrats will note that Hale worried that the White House Office of Management and Budget might not release the expected aid to Ukraine, which could undermine confidence in U.S. support for Ukraine, and embolden Russia.
- What Democrats aren’t telling you: Hale testified that he — one of the most senior leaders in the State Department — had “no knowledge” of any use of aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations. He added that Secretary of State Pompeo had never discussed any such link with him.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.