November 20, 2019

Castro Questions Cooper, Hale During Sixth Impeachment Hearing of President Trump

– As Delivered –

WASHINGTON—Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and a member of the House Intelligence and Education and Labor Committees, today had the following exchange with Laura Cooper and David Hale, during the highly anticipated sixth open impeachment hearing, where the American people continued to hear the evidence for themselves on President Trump’s abuse of power:

CASTRO: Thank you, Chairman and thank y’all for your testimony today. I want us to make an important distinction here because a few of my colleagues have rattled off countries where we’ve actually held up aid. There is a big distinction between holding up aid for a legitimate policy reason—a foreign policy reason—and holding up aid because it’s part of a shakedown. Because it’s in the service of a President who asked for a political favor of a country to go investigate a political rival. I think that’s important for us to note. And I want to ask you, Ms. Cooper, you said that the money was cleared to go by the DoD on May 23rd, is that right?

COOPER: That’s correct.

CASTRO: And it didn’t get released until September 11?

COOPER: Yes. I should just clarify the second half of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative was notified to Congress on, I believe it was, May 23rd and then there was a waiting period for Congressional approval and then after that point, so in kind of mid-June roughly, it was available for—

CASTRO: So perhaps 90 days or so. 95 days, something like that.

COOPER: Yes. I don’t have a calendar in front of me, but that sounds right.

CASTRO: Well, you both testified that the hold on security assistance was not in the national security interest of the United States and that the hold might embolden Russia. We’ve heard the same from numerous other witnesses that have come before us. But this was not the only issue with the hold, right? We understand that people within the United States government had significant concerns about the legality of the hold as it relates to the Impoundment Control Act. This is because the money had been authorized by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. Miss Cooper, at the July meetings where there any discussions about whether the hold could be implemented in a legal fashion?

COOPER: So, in the July 26 meeting, my leadership raised the question of how the President’s guidance could be implemented and proffered that perhaps a reprogramming action would be the way to do this, but that more research would need to be done. So then after that discussion, we had a lower level discussion, at my level, on the 31st of July.

CASTRO: And let me ask you about that July 31st meeting. Based on your conversations with colleagues at the DoD, at the July 31st interagency meeting, did you share your understanding of legal mechanisms that were available at that time?

COOPER: Yes, Sir.

CASTRO: And what were they?

COOPER: I expressed that it was my understanding that there were two ways that we would be able to implement presidential guidance to stop obligating the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. And the first option would be for the President to do a rescission. The second is a reprogramming action that the Department of Defense would do.

CASTRO: And both of those would require Congressional notice?

COOPER: Yes, Sir.

CASTRO: There would be an extra step that the President would have to take to notify Congress. As far as you know, was there ever any notice that was sent out to Congress?

COOPER: Sir, I did express that I believed it would require a notice to Congress and that then there was no such notice to my knowledge or preparation of such a notice to my knowledge.

CASTRO: And as far as you know there was never any official rescission or reprogramming of that money?

COOPER: No, Sir, not to my knowledge.

CASTRO: Instead, what happened was OMB devised an alternative solution involving creative footnotes to implement the hold. And there came a time in August when the Department of Defense no longer supported these unusual footnotes because of concerns that there might not be sufficient time for DoD to obligate the funds before the end of the fiscal year, in violation of the Impoundment Control Act. So, despite DoD’s concerns in mid-August about the Impoundment Control Act and OMB’s footnotes, the hold, nevertheless, continued through September 11th— even after, now as an aside, this is even after the whistleblower had come forward—is that right?

COOPER: It is correct that the hold was released on September 11th, yes.

CASTRO: Well, I know I, and many of us here, share DoD’s concerns about the legality of the hold and I want to thank you, Ms. Cooper, for voicing DoD’s concerns to The White House in pursuing the national security interests of the United States. I yield back.

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