Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale said during a House Intelligence Committee deposition that aid to Lebanon was withheld at the same time and in the same way as the aid to Ukraine, suggesting that it appeared to be normal.
The committee released a transcript of the deposition (pdf) on Monday evening.
Hale said that the aid suspension was done in the backdrop of the Trump administration embarking “on a foreign assistance review in which we are trying to reestablish the norms that guide the assistance that we provide overseas.” He said the review was “long overdue.”
“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,” he said.
House Democrats have alleged that $400 million in military aid to Ukraine was withheld by the White House in exchange for investigations, which President Trump has denied.
He said the U.S. aid to Lebanon was withheld by the Office of Management and Budget. Aid to the “Northern Triangle” in Central America was also withheld, Hale stated.
“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 Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) had asked Hale.
Hale told the committee: “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.”
Hale said that aid to the Northern Triangle countries wasn’t withheld due to investigations involving Joe and Hunter Biden.
The aid to Lebanon was handled in the same manner as the hold to Ukraine. He said there was no real explanation. “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,” he recalled.
“[N]o one explained to us in either case, Ukraine or Lebanon, the reasoning behind the hold, or the freeze really,” Hale said.
Hale also said the transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfectly normal” to him. In the phone call, Trump asked Zelensky to look into the Bidens and alleged election interference.