The Defense Department’s office of the General Counsel has ordered Pentagon officials to turn over all documents and communications concerning U.S. military aid to Ukraine for cataloguing and preservation.
The documents could play a role in the House of Representative’s impeachment inquiry involving President Donald Trump and Ukraine.
In a memo released Friday, General Counsel of the Department of Defense Paul Ney wrote that “identifying, preserving and collecting” all documents related to Ukraine’s military aid was needed “in responding to anticipated requests for such materials.”
Documents pertaining to the temporary delay of aid to Ukraine will include Defense Department communications with other government agencies, Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters Thursday.
“My understanding is this is a fairly standard practice that when there is a significant level of Congressional or IG (inspector general) interest in a matter for the department to take steps proactively to ensure that that these materials are available,” he added.
The House’s impeachment inquiry centers around a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as well as a flurry of activities surrounding the call.
House Democrats allege that Trump and his advisors pressured Zelenskiy to investigate Trump’s political rival, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, and may have even withheld U.S. aid to Ukraine as leverage.
The chief Pentagon spokesman said Thursday that no one from the Defense Department, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper, was on the White House call.
At some point before or after this call, the White House reportedly asked for a freeze on nearly $391 million in aid to Ukraine, which included $250 million of military aid that had been announced by the Defense Department in June for training, equipment, and advisory efforts for Kyiv’s armed forces.
Separately, this week, the State Department confirmed the potential sale of 150 anti-tank Javelin systems and related equipment to Ukraine for $39 million.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon Thursday, the top U.S. military commander in Europe said he believes more Javelins will help Ukraine defend its territory.
“The Ukrainian military is very excited about the Javelins,” said Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, the command of U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe. “It’s a sophisticated capability; it’s a modern capability; it has great precision; it has great speed.”
Wolters added he advised that the United States “go forward” with providing the anti-tank systems to Ukraine “because of the positive outcome” they have created on the battlefield.
He said he believed the security situation in Ukraine had “plateaued” and was improving.
Zelenskiy told Trump during the July 25 phone call his country was “ready to buy more Javelins,” according to a White House memorandum of the phone conversation.
The potential Javelins sale to Ukraine that was announced late Thursday is separate from the $250 million in military aid that was temporarily delayed until last month.