Officials at the Pentagon are distancing themselves itself from the controversy surrounding President Trump’s communications with Ukraine that has plunged Washington into an impeachment inquiry.
In an effort to avoid being sucked into the political fray, Pentagon officials have ordered employees to turn over for preservation any documents and communications having to do with an internal whistleblower’s report about the administration’s holdup of military aid to Ukraine in an attempt to pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Trump’s political rival Joe Biden.
As noted by The Hill, the intrigue has engulfed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who on Wednesday confirmed that he had listened in on the call after days of brushing aside questions as to whether he was aware of what Trump said in the conversation.
House committees have also accused Pompeo of seeking to hinder lawmaker efforts to gather testimonies from five current and former State Department officials tied to the controversy.
Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman on Thursday told reporters that no one from the Defense Department was on the July 25 call, according to The Hill.
“To my knowledge, no one from the Department of Defense was on that call. I’ve specifically asked the Secretary of Defense that question and he was not on that call,” Hoffman said, referring to Pentagon chief Mike Esper.
Hoffman added that DOD’s general counsel has directed all offices to provide any pertinent documents and records related to the Ukrainian aid for “cataloging and review.”
“Out of an abundance of caution, they’ve taken the steps to have documents be preserved,” Hoffman said, adding that the saved records will include any communications between DOD and other departments and agencies.
The Pentagon on Friday released the official Oct. 3 memo directing the documents be saved.
“In light of heightened interest in the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), I write to request your assistance and cooperation in identifying, preserving, and collecting documents and other records” regarding the aid, Defense Department General Counsel Paul Ney wrote.
Ney noted that the records were needed “in responding to anticipated requests for such materials.”