A top US diplomat to Europe told three Democratic-led Congressional panels on Saturday that he did not know US security aid may have been withheld to pressure Ukraine’s new president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as other matters related to the 2016 US election, according to Reuters.
Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, testified on Saturday before three Democratic-led House of Representatives panels conducting an inquiry into whether to impeach Trump.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Reeker was prepared to tell the committees in the closed-door session he had largely left Ukraine policy to Kurt Volker, then the U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations, and to others. –Reuters
Reeker, whose post began on March 18, oversees US diplomacy in 50 nations including Ukraine and Russia. At the time, former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was under fire for reportedly giving a Ukrainian official a list of people not to prosecute – an allegation she has denied.
According to Reuters’ source, Reeker wanted the State Department to mount a more vigorous defense of Yovanovitch, who was recalled early from her post in May.
Democratic impeachment efforts are focusing on whether President Trump withheld a Congressionally approved $391 million in US military aid from Ukraine – which Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky says he was unaware of during a July 25 phone call at the heart of a whistleblower complaint.
In addition to requesting that Zelensky revive an investigation into the Bidens, Trump asked that the Ukrainian president do him a “favor” and investigate whether a hacked DNC server that Russia allegedly hacked was located within the country.
During the call, Zelensky agreed to conduct the investigations according to a transcript. Approximately three weeks later the US aid was released.
Trump and other U.S. officials have denied for weeks that they had demanded a “quid pro quo” – a Latin phrase meaning a favour for a favour – for delivering the U.S. aid.
But Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney on Oct. 17 said Trump’s withholding the aid was linked to his request that the Ukrainians look into the claims about the Democrats’ server.
The source said Reeker was unaware in the June-August period of the possibility Trump may have withheld the aid or a meeting to pressure Zelenskiy to carry out the investigations. –Reuters
According to Reuters‘ source, Reeker knew that the US aid was being withheld, but not why – and left the situation in Volker’s hands.
Earlier this month Ambassador William Taylor testified that by mid-July “it was becoming clear to me that the (White House) meeting President Zelenskiy wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.”
Reeker, meanwhile, was largely left out of the loop.
“He knew that Volker and Sondland and Kent were on top of this and were dealing with it on the day to day and he just wasn’t,” said the source. “His take on this was … he should let those people do their job.”