The House of Representatives has released the transcript of the November 6 closed-door deposition of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, the third-ranking official in the State Department.
The committees conducting the impeachment inquiry questioned Hale, who is the highest-ranking career diplomat in the foreign service, about his knowledge about the recall of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
Here are some of the highlights of his deposition:
He met Yovanovitch in October 2018. When Hale visited her in Kiev in March 2019, he told lawmakers he felt he "could make an assessment that she was doing a very good job" and asked her if she would consider extending her stay as ambassador, since a new one would not yet be confirmed by the time she was to depart in the summer.
By that time, Hale was aware that Congressman Pete Sessions had told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Yovanovitch was "saying derogatory things about President Trump," an accusation Hale said he did not think was valid.
By late March, there were several articles written targeting Yovanovitch. Hale recalled that "there was an allegation that we had somehow -- the United States Government had presented a "do not prosecute" list to the Ukrainian authorities, and we put out a statement saying that that was an outright fabrication."
By March 24, the stream of social media and other criticism directed against Yovanovitch had grown so intense, Hale said that she had emailed him to say that "she felt she could no longer function unless there was a strong statement of defense of her from the State Department."
Read the full transcript here
Hale subsequently raised the idea of a statement of support with Pompeo. The secretary asked State Department counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl to contact those who had been passing around the alleged behavior of Yovanovitch, and any statement would have to wait until those conversations were completed.
Pompeo, according to Hale, spoke with Fox News host Sean Hannity to demand to know what evidence he had to corroborate the accusations against her.
Ultimately, Hale said that "I never met anyone who felt that they had received that credible evidence" that the accusations against Yovanovitch had any validity.
The State Department never issued the statement of support Yovanovitch requested. Hale said that there was a fear that "it would only fuel further negative reaction. And our plan at that point was to try to contain this and wait it out."
Hale believes that it is in the best interests of the U.S. to give security assistance to Ukraine, tangible assistance, in the face of Russian aggression.
He signed a report for Congress on May 8 that said Ukraine had made progress on corruption.
Hale was told on July 23 that there had been a presidential directive about pausing the aid, and he learned on July 25 that it was the president who had made the decision through chief of staff Mulvaney.
During what he referred to as a "lower level interagency meeting on July 23rd," Hale said he'd been told the aid was being suspended by a presidential directive. He said he wasn't satisfied by the response:
I wanted clarity. I wanted a name of a named person who was saying: This is the President's wish. I never got that response until we were into the small group meeting, the deputies small group meeting on July 25 in which OMB stated on the record that it was the President through Chief of Staff Mulvaney.
Hale is to appear before the House Intelligence Committee in an open hearing on Wednesday afternoon.