Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale said during a House Intelligence Committee testimony foreign aid to Lebanon was withheld at about the same time, and in the same way, as aid to Ukraine.

On Monday evening, Nov. 18, 2019, just before the eve of the impeachment hearings, the committee released a transcript of the deposition.

Hale testified that the suspension of aid to several countries occurred as part of a context in which the Trump administration had “embarked on a foreign assistance review in which we are trying to re-establish the norms that guide the assistance that we provide overseas.”

The review of U.S. foreign aid is “long overdue,” said Hale.

“There was information that came to me starting in late June that a hold had been placed on both Ukraine assistance and Lebanon military assistance without any explanation on those,” said Hale.

House Democrats alleged that the Trump administration withheld $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations. But President Donald Trump rejected that allegation.

Hale stated that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the White House had also withheld aid to Lebanon around the same time and in the same manner. Aid to the “Northern Triangle” of countries in Central America, where numerous illegal aliens were flocking to the United States, was also withheld, Hale said.

“My colleagues in the minority asked you about an overall review of foreign assistance, and I want to make sure that we’re not conflating the two here. … But there was a very specific hold placed on this assistance to Ukraine for inexplicable reasons, was there not?” Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) asked Hale.

Hale had responded: “That is correct. There was information that came to me starting in late June that a hold had been placed on both Ukraine assistance and Lebanon military assistance without any explanation on those, about those holds; that’s correct.”

Then Schiff asked Hale several leading questions, such as: “[T]he aid to the Northern Triangle wasn’t withheld because there was an effort to get political investigations involving the Bidens, was there?”

Hale replied that it was not.

He continued stating that the hold of aid to Lebanon aid was conducted the same way as the hold on Ukraine aid. “‘[N]o one explained to us in either case, Ukraine or Lebanon, the reasoning behind the hold, or the freeze really,” said Hale.

While other witnesses stated that the absence of explanation for withholding Ukraine aid seemed suspicious, in his response Hale described it as part of the way the Trump administration handled such cases in general.

Q: Okay. And so you still—have you—has the State Department been provided with a reason why the hold [on aid to Lebanon] has been withheld?
Mr. David Hale: Officially, no; formally, in no way, in no manner.

Q: How about informally?
Mr. Hale: Not even informally, no. We just understand there are differences of opinion on this, or there had been. And the matter now rests with OMB. I don’t think that the differences currently exist outside of OMB.

Q: And was this congressionally authorized aid as well to Lebanon?
Mr. Hale: I’m pretty sure of it, yeah. Yes.

Hale said that he was never aware of any link between U.S. aid for Ukraine and the investigations the president had requested. His testimony challenged the Democrats’ scheme against President Trump.

Hale also testified that the transcript of President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was “perfectly normal.” In the phone call, Trump asked Zelenskiy to look into the Bidens and alleged election interference.

Hale stated that it was “not unprecedented” for a president to seek support in public diplomacy from a private citizen, like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Hale will testifying in a public hearing later this week.

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