House Republicans defend Trump over Ukraine in impeachment report

Stefan Becket and Arden Farhi

Washington — House Republicans have released a report detailing their conclusions from the initial stages of the $391 million in military aid to Ukraine, and did not exert pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden, who had worked for the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. The Republicans say the president's decision to withhold the aid was the result of skepticism over Ukraine's commitment to combating corruption.

"The evidence shows that President Trump holds a deepseated, genuine, and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine due to its history of pervasive corruption," the report says. "Understood in this proper context, the President's initial hesitation to meet with President Zelensky or to provide U.S. taxpayer-funded security assistance to Ukraine without thoughtful review is entirely prudent."

But the report also asserts that the Ukrainians did not know about the delay in military aid until late August, when reports about the hold first emerged in the press.

"Although U.S. security assistance was temporarily paused, the U.S. government did not convey the pause to the Ukrainians because U.S. officials believed the pause would get worked out and, if publicized, may be mischaracterized as a shift in U.S. policy towards Ukraine," the report says. "U.S. officials said that the Ukrainian government in Kyiv never knew the aid was delayed until reading about it in the U.S. media."

Laura Cooper, a Pentagon official responsible for overseeing the Defense Department's portion of the aid package, testified that officials from the Ukrainian embassy were asking about the military aid weeks before it emerged publicly. The Republicans, however, say her testimony did not establish that senior Ukrainian officials knew about the delay before it was reported.

"Although this evidence suggests that Ukrainian officials in Washington were vaguely aware of an issue with the security assistance before August 28, the evidence does not show that the senior leadership of Ukrainian government in Kyiv was aware of the pause until late August," the report says.

The Republicans say the aid was released after "President Zelensky took decisive action demonstrating his commitment" to implementing reforms and fighting corruption.

"President Trump then released security assistance to Ukraine and met with President Zelensky in September 2019 — all without Ukraine taking any action to investigate President Trump's political rival," it says.

However, one U.S. official testified publicly that Zelensky was prepared to announce the investigations in an interview in early September, before the aid was released. Bill Taylor, the top U.S. ambassador in Ukraine, told lawmakers Zelensky's staff "was making plans" to announce the probes when the hold was lifted.

Chicago mayor fires Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson

Internet famous Lil BUB cat has died at age 8

Senate confirms Dan Brouillette as secretary of the Department of Energy