DOD general counsel orders data collection on military aid to Ukraine

By Tony Bertuca / October 3, 2019 at 1:02 PM

The Defense Department's Office of General Counsel has directed all Pentagon offices to provide any "pertinent" information related to the distribution of U.S. military aid to Ukraine, a matter at the heart of a House impeachment inquiry.

Chief DOD Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters today the directive from the general counsel's office was issued out of "an abundance of caution" that the records be preserved for "future use" given that the issue has garnered significant interest from Congress and the DOD inspector general.

The directive comes as the House has begun impeachment proceedings against President Trump over allegations he withheld military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Biden is a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The White House last week released a reconstructed transcript of a conversation Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over the summer in which Trump requested an investigation into Biden and his son.

Trump has said he did nothing wrong and his call with Zelensky was "perfect."

Hoffman said Deense Secretary Mark Esper was not on the call, though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has confirmed he was.

Trump today also suggested China should investigate Biden.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said the delay in military aid to Ukraine "raises questions about whether DOD officials were involved in any scheme to target a political opponent."

The delay of $125 million in aid, which was eventually released, "would appear to have hindered the department's statutory obligation to provide security assistance to Ukraine at a critical moment," Durbin and other Senate Democrats wrote in a Sept. 25 letter to acting DOD Inspector General Glenn Fine.

A DOD IG spokeswoman says the request for an investigation is still being reviewed.