Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee and GOP allies defending the president on television have claimed that Trump’s pressure on Ukrainian President Zelensky — in which he withheld aid in exchange for politically motivated investigations — could not have been a quid pro quo because the administration in Kiev was not aware that military assistance was frozen. It can’t be a bribe if one party doesn’t know its end is being held up, or so the argument goes.
That line of reasoning was quickly dismissed by deputy assistant secretary of Defense Laura Cooper, who testified on Wednesday that Ukraine knew that $391 million in aid was cut off as early as July 25 — a month earlier than previously known, and the same day as Trump’s call to Zelensky in which he pressured the Ukrainian president to open politically motivated investigations.
Cooper testified that on the day of the call, a Ukrainian government worker contacted her staff by email: “What was going on with Ukrainian security assistance?” Around 2:30 p.m., a State Department staffer emailed Cooper, informing her that the “Ukrainian embassy and House foreign affairs committee are asking about security assistance.” Another email from State came in about two hours later: “The Hill knows about the FMF (foreign military financing) situation to an extent and so does the Ukrainian embassy.”
Though Cooper’s testimony does away with the argument that there couldn’t have been a quid pro quo because Ukraine didn’t know of the aid freeze, other incongruous GOP defenses remain. Though Trump still asserts that there was “no quid pro quo” — as he scribbled in needs-glasses font in his notes on Wednesday — other Republican allies have moved on to the next likely defense. On Tuesday, Oklahoma representative Tom Cole went for the so-what rebuttal, saying that the reality of a quid pro quo “doesn’t matter much anymore.”