DoD collects documents on Ukraine, military aid amid controversy


Defense Secretary Mark Esper was not on President Donald Trump’s July phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the heart of a House impeachment inquiry, a Pentagon official said on Thursday.

“To my knowledge, no one from the Defense Ministry was on this [July 25] call, ”Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said during a briefing. “I specifically asked [Esper] that question and he was not on that call. “

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted he listened to the call and others, possibly including an assistant to Vice President Mike Pence, may have also attended, but Esper was not one of them, a Hoffman said. Investigation stems from allegations Trump tried to pressure Zelensky to investigate Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden by threatening to withhold military aid, including Javelin anti-tank missiles .

“The secretary has an incredibly busy schedule and works on a number of different issues at the same time. He doesn’t spend most of his days sitting on other people’s phone calls,” Hoffman said of Esper.

Hoffman added that the fury over the phone call had not affected Esper’s ability to work with the White House and the State Department on national security matters.

Esper “has a strong working relationship with the President, with [Pompeo], with the national security adviser – that’s not a problem, ”Hoffman said.

The controversy over the phone call also did not affect U.S. military relations with Ukraine, Hoffman said. He said the United States had provided a total of $ 1.6 billion in military aid to Ukraine since 2014 to help the country “defend itself against aggressive Russian action in the region.”

However, as a precautionary measure, the Defense Ministry‘s attorney general ordered a collection of all relevant DoD documents on Ukraine and military aid, although House investigators have yet to request them. , Hoffman said.

“Out of caution, they have taken the necessary steps to ensure that the documents are preserved,” he said.

In a statement last week, Esper said the Defense Department was ready to cooperate with Congress and all relevant agencies in connection with the impeachment inquiry.

He said the DoD would hand over “any information we can provide regarding this incident, as it pertains to this matter, as we would any other matter.”

– Richard Sisk can be reached at [email protected].

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