A congressional delegation will travel to Ukraine this week to meet with military leaders amid the controversy over President Trump's July phone call with the Ukrainian president -- though officials say the trip, planned before the details of that call were known, was originally meant to address other issues.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif, said on Fox Business Network Thursday that the trip mostly concerns the European Reassurance Initiative, which invests billions supporting European allies -- mostly in Eastern Europe -- in response to the Russian incursion into Ukraine. Garamendi is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on readiness.
“In the intervening time we have the president pulling $770 million out of that program, and these are critical infrastructure so that our troops can actually engage if ever necessary in Eastern Europe, and of course we were going to do the Ukraine thing looking at the military support that we're giving,” he said on "Cavuto: Coast to Coast."
He said that trip was planned four months ago, but noted that it has now become “all tied up in this impeachment issue.”
He was referring to the controversy surrounding the newly revealed phone call between Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky in July. The transcript of the call was released this week after a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
The allegation has escalated Democratic calls for Trump’s impeachment, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announcing a formal inquiry this week. Democrats allege that the call indicates a quid pro quo, with Trump holding military spending in return for an investigation into a political opponent. The transcript, though, does not show Trump explicitly linking the two. The money was eventually delivered.
On CNN Friday morning, Garamendi said the delegation is hoping to meet with political leaders in Kiev, including the defense minister, but said that “given all of the disruption it remains to be seen exactly how that goes.”
“The question there is Ukraine is a critical ally. Ukraine has been invaded by Russia. What does all of this mean to Ukraine, how can we make sure that they get the assistance that they need to continue to push back against Russia and ultimately be successful and push Russia out of Ukraine?” he said.
However, Garamendi also said that he believed a quid pro quo was relayed, and didn’t rule out speaking to officials about the Biden matter. He has previously said he intends to “hold discussions on this matter and inquire about the conversations [Trump attorney] Rudy Giuliani and President Trump have had with Ukrainian leadership." However, he said the delegation has to be "very very careful" about the subject on the trip to the country.
“Once again things are rapidly evolving here [and] what the Ukrainian government will do and how it will respond to what has got to be a major political issue for them back in Kiev remains to be seen,” he said on CNN. “And so we're going to be treading very carefully on the political side of this.”