The Defense Department Inspector General will not begin an investigation at this time into why the White House halted U.S. military aid to Ukraine, telling concerned Senate Democrats it does not wish to “overlap” with the House impeachment investigation into President Trump.
Acting DOD Inspector General Glenn Fine, in a letter sent Tuesday to several Senate Democrats, said the office’s position could change as “circumstances evolve,” but maintained that “we do not believe we should begin an investigation at this time.”
While the IG office acknowledges that it is not prohibited from conducting an overlapping investigation with Congress, it notes that the House impeachment investigation is “not typical.”
The IG asserts “it is important for us to consider the impact on and overlap with the impeachment proceeding of any investigation we consider conducting.”
The White House order to delay nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine last summer -- $250 million of which was overseen by the Pentagon -- is being investigated by a House impeachment panel, which is examining allegations that Trump held the 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 president says he has done nothing wrong, and GOP leaders continue to support him.
Senate Democrats, in a recent letter to the Pentagon IG, asked the watchdog agency to begin an investigation into why the appropriated funds were not spent as directed by Congress.
"As senators responsible for the oversight of the Department of Defense, we believe it is appropriate to conduct an internal review as to why DOD officials chose not to disclose a policy decision that impacts the execution of appropriated funds,” the lawmakers wrote.
Meanwhile, House impeachment investigators have heard testimony from Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official who oversees policy on Ukraine.
Cooper, who spoke to investigators Oct. 23, said she and other officials were concerned about the White House’s order to withhold military aid to Ukraine “without explanation.”
"DOD was concerned about the obligation of funds," she told investigators. "Policy, my team, we were also concerned about any signal that we would send to Ukraine about a wavering in our commitment. 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."
Democrats have released statements from European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who in revised testimony told investigators he recalls telling Ukrainian officials that U.S. aid would “likely” not be delivered until the public announcement of an anti-corruption investigation that could help Trump politically.
Sondland's account followed testimony from acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, who has said he was told Trump was going to withhold the aid package until the Ukrainian president made a public announcement to investigate the Biden family and the 2016 U.S. election.