Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, testified Wednesday that her staff received an inquiry from the Ukrainian Embassy asking about the status of the funds July 25, the same day as President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Cooper testified alongside David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs, before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday night as part of the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump lashed out anew at the inquiry as Gordon Sondland, the most significant witness, acknowledged during his testimony that there was a “quid pro quo” in the Ukraine controversy.

In questioning, Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, was pressed about his knowledge of allegations that Trump sought to leverage U.S. military aid to Ukraine and a White House visit by Zelensky in exchange for investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, among others.

●Sondland: ‘Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes.’

●Trump said his Ukraine call was ‘perfect.’ Impeachment witnesses testified otherwise.

●Judge intends to rule by Monday on a House subpoena to former White House counsel Donald McGahn.

Sondland has baggage issues

2:00 a.m.
Link copied

Sondland made his flight back to Brussels Wednesday night, but it wasn’t without a minor snafu.

A passenger on Sondland’s flight told CNN that the ambassador, who had just endured a six-hour grilling, put his bag in the wrong overhead bin.

“My whole day has been like this,” Sondland quipped.

Colby Itkowitz

Schiff says Trump demonstrates corruption ‘in word and deed’

1:20 a.m.
Link copied

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) concluded Wednesday’s second hearing by reflecting on claims that Trump was focused on fighting corruption in Ukraine when he placed a hold on military aid.

In fact, Schiff argued, Trump “demonstrates — in word and deed — corruption.”

Schiff gave several examples — Trump’s removal of former ambassador ro Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who had fought corruption in the country; his praise of former Ukrainian prosecutors general Yuriy Lutsenko and Viktor Shokin, who Schiff described as corrupt; the alleged quid pro quo involving military aid and Trump’s pressure on Zelensky during their July 25 call; and the call between Sondland and Trump in which Trump inquired about the status of investigations.

In each case, Schiff said, “That is not anti-corruption. That is corruption.”

“When [countries around the world] see a president of the United States who is not devoted to the rule of law ... they are forced to ask themselves: what does America stand for anymore?” he said.

Elise Viebeck

A little laughter at the end of a long and momentous day

1:00 a.m.
Link copied

A moment of levity marked the end of perhaps the most momentous day to date of the impeachment hearings. In his closing statement, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) railed that the day’s proceedings were a con game and an “impeachment inquisition.”

“An inquisition victim had more rights than the Democrats are giving the president,” Nunes acidly added. “After all, inquisition victims had the right to learn their accuser’s name.” And with that coda, he yielded to Schiff or what he called the chairman’s “story-time hour.”

“I thank the gentleman for his remarks,” replied a poker-faced Schiff, drawing laughter from the gallery.

Cooper says $35 million in aid would have remained unspent if not for congressional intervention

12:55 a.m.
Link copied

Cooper said the Pentagon was able to only “obligate” 88 percent of military aid appropriated to Ukraine before the end of the fiscal year, leaving $35 million left over that would have remained unspent if not for a provision in the latest stopgap spending bill.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) asked about the figure and the role of the continuing resolution in ensuring the entire pool of appropriated funds went to Ukraine.

“But for literally an act of Congress, you couldn’t have spent all the money,” Maloney said.

“If we had not received the provision in the continuing resolution, we would have obligated 88 percent but not the full amount,” Cooper said.

The House passed the spending bill on Tuesday, and the Senate is expected to approve it on Thursday.

Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said this week that the Pentagon recently alerted lawmakers that $35.2 million of the $250 million in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds that had been held up by the White House remained unspent.

“Nearly half of the unspent funds are intended for lethal material to assist Ukrainian security forces battling Russian-back separatists,” a memo from Durbin’s office stated.

Hale says ouster of Yovanovitch was wrong

12:50 a.m.
Link copied

Hale, the third-ranking official in the State Department, delivered a striking defense of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, saying it was wrong for her to have been removed from her post by the Trump administration.

Hale’s testimony could be interpreted an implicit criticism of his boss, Secretary of State of Mike Pompeo, who did not issue a statement in support of Yovanovitch and did not prevent her removal from the post.

Trump had said in his July 25 phone call with Zelensky that Yovanovitch was “going to go through some things,” which Yovanovitch has testified she took as threatening. Pompeo was among those who listened to the call.

“I believe she should have been able to stay at the post and continue to do the outstanding work,” Hale testified about Yovanovitch. Asked by Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) whether “what happened to her was wrong,” Hale responded, “That’s right.”

Yovanovitch has said that she asked Hale for help defending her from a smear campaign that questioned whether she was loyal to Trump, but no statement from the State Department was issued defending her.

As a result, Hale’s testimony on the subject Wednesday was much anticipated. Hale had previously said that he had advocated in favor of defending Yovanovitch, but that the State Department did not do so.

White House pushes back against idea Ukrainians knew of aid hold in July

12:20 a.m.
Link copied

The White House responded swiftly after Cooper testified that the Ukrainians asked about the status of the military aid as early as July 25, challenging the timeline of when Ukraine found out about the delay.

“This is just an assumption based on Ukraine bringing up the aid. Simply discussing the aid in no way means they knew it was being withheld,” the White House said in talking points that it circulated by email.

The White House said that Zelensky and several impeachment witnesses had made “abundantly clear” that Ukraine didn’t know about the hold in July.

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) used the talking points in questioning Cooper, saying that just because her staff received questions about the assistance did not mean the Ukrainians knew about the hold.

“You cannot say one way or another whether the inquiries in these emails were about the hold — is that fair?” he asked Cooper.

“I cannot say for certain,” Cooper said. She stated that it was the “recollection of [her] staff” that the Ukrainians likely knew about the hold before it was reported in Politico but told Ratcliffe, “I don’t have a certain data point to offer you.”

“It’s not unusual is it, Ms. Cooper, for foreign countries to inquire about foreign aid that they’re expecting from the U.S.? Is it?” Ratcliffe asked.

“Sir, in my experience with the Ukrainians, they typically would call about specific things, not just generally checking in on their assistance package,” Cooper said.

Republicans use hearing to hammer Obama administration on weaponry for Ukraine

12:10 a.m.
Link copied

A number of Republican lawmakers used their question time to praise the Trump administration for sending Javelin antitank missiles to Ukraine and to criticize the Obama administration for its decision not to do so.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) said current aid to Ukraine included Javelins, “which the Obama administration denied.”

“Is that correct?” he asked Cooper.

“It is true that the Trump administration approved the release of defensive lethal assistance to include Javelins, whereas the previous administration did not support that policy,” Cooper said.

Wenstrup called the weapons “a benefit to all of us.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) raised the same issue.

“And [under] which administration were those Javelins made available to Ukraine?” she asked Cooper.

“This administration — the Trump administration,” Cooper said.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) pushed back during his five minutes, stating that the Obama administration trained five Ukrainian military battalions and provided equipment such as armored Humvees, tactical drones and night vision goggles.

Cooper says she ‘strenuously’ argued for release of Ukraine funds

12:00 a.m.
Link copied

Cooper was asked by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) whether she was told why the freeze was put on security aid to Ukraine. Cooper said she didn’t know why the funds were frozen after they had been cleared for release through normal channels.

Cooper agreed with Speier that the funds were needed immediately because Ukraine was at war with Russia.

“I and my [Department of Defense] colleagues advocated strenuously for the release of these funds because of their national security importance,” Cooper said.

State Department disputes Sondland’s claim on emails

11:50 p.m.
Link copied

A State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss Sondland’s complaint, noted that the ambassador continues to retain access to his documentary records and email account because he’s still employed by the department.

Sondland, who by his own admission is “not a note taker,” blamed the omissions and memory lapses he had during a closed-door deposition last month on the fact that he couldn’t review his communications — and still has not been provided records of at least one pivotal phone call with Trump.

Schiff cites significance of Cooper’s testimony

11:40 p.m.
Link copied

Schiff cited the importance of the new timeline provided by Cooper.

“You are the first to indicate that [knowledge about the hold on security aid] may go back as early as the date of the president’s call with President Zelensky,” Schiff told Cooper.

Other witnesses so far have testified that they believed Ukrainian officials did not know that the security aid had been held up until later.

Hale says it would be unusual to withhold military aid for investigation

11:30 p.m.
Link copied

Hale, who was called by Republicans to testify, said he believed it would be unusual to withhold military aid to pressure a country to investigate a political opponent.

“That would be inconsistent with the conduct of our foreign policy in general,” Hale said in response to a question from Schiff. “It’s certainly not what I would do.”

Cooper testifies that Ukrainians asked about status of security assistance July 25, same day as presidential call

11:15 p.m.
Link copied

Cooper testified that her staffers informed her of a series of communications that indicate Ukrainian officials inquired on the day of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky about the status of congressionally approved security aid to Kyiv.

Defense Department official Laura Cooper testified on Nov. 20 that the Ukrainian Embassy sent an email asking about security aid on July 25. (The Washington Post)

Cooper testified that just hours after Trump and Zelensky spoke on July 25, her staff heard through the State Department that the Ukrainian Embassy and the House Foreign Affairs Committee knew “to an extent” that the funds controlled through the State Department’s foreign military financing accounts had been frozen and were asking questions.

“On July 25, a member of my staff got a question from a Ukraine Embassy contact asking what was going on with Ukraine security assistance,” she said.

Cooper said she was not aware of those communications when she gave her deposition last month in the impeachment inquiry. She added that she only became aware after her deposition that the Office of Management and Budget had blocked the State Department from sending out its security assistance funds to Ukraine on July 3, as Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council Ukraine expert, and Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Pence, testified Tuesday.

The new timeline Cooper laid out threatens one of the GOP’s main defenses of Trump — that the Ukranians were not aware of the hold on security aid at the time of the call between the heads of state, and that they found nothing alarming in the presidents’ discussion.

Meadows says he’s open to Pompeo or Perry testifying, but doesn’t think it’s likely

11:10 p.m.
Link copied

As calls emerged for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify before Congress, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said he would be open to the idea.

“Would I be in favor of a Secretary Pompeo or a [former Energy] Secretary [Rick] Perry coming to testify? Certainly.” he told reporters late Wednesday afternoon.

However, “I don’t see that happening,” he said.

Meadows said he does not support acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney appearing for testimony.

“When you get to the chief of staff, I would not, just because it’s a chilling effect on any president,” he said.” So whether it’s President Barack Obama or whether it’s any other president, their chief of staff and their White House counsel is off limits, I think, just from the nature of those positions and the proximity to the president.”

Throughout the impeachment inquiry, Meadows has criticized the Democrats’ handling of the hearings and the witnesses they’ve called to testify.

Hale, Cooper appearing under subpoena

11:05 p.m.
Link copied

Cooper and Hale are appearing under subpoena, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters not publicly announced.

Most of the officials who have testified have done so under subpoena, given the Trump administration’s efforts to block them from appearing.