President Trump has cited corruption in Ukraine as one of the reasons his administration withheld $250 million in military aid beginning in July, ahead of a controversial July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart.
But Fox News has confirmed that the Pentagon’s undersecretary for policy, John Rood, sent a letter to Capitol Hill lawmakers in May certifying “the government of Ukraine has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption [and] increasing accountability,” as first reported by NPR.
The $250 million in military aid was released on Sept. 11, a day after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., made a formal request to transmit a whistleblower complaint concerning the president's Ukraine call to the committee. To date, $225 million has been allocated, according to defense officials.
Trump has repeatedly said his July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was "perfect." Trump has also denied withholding the aid to motivate Ukrainian officials to investigate potential 2020 election rival Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and their business activity in Ukraine.
Zelensky said Wednesday that Trump had not pressured him during their phone call over the summer.
"Nobody pushed me," he said at a bilateral meeting with Trump at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. “We had a great phone call. It was normal.”
The transcript of the call was released Thursday. It shows the president sought an investigation from Ukraine into the Biden family, though it does not show Trump explicitly leveraging U.S. aid as had initially been suggested.
Trump returned to Joint Base Andrews on Thursday and called the allegations, which have spurred a House impeachment inquiry, "another witch hunt."
He tweeted earlier about the call, saying it was a "very nice, no pressure call."
"Here we go again. It's Adam Schiff and his crew making up stories," Trump told reporters, noting: "It's a terrible thing for our country."
"It was an absolutely perfect phone call to the new president of Ukraine," he added.
On June 18, the Defense Department announced $250 million in aid to Ukraine. On July 25, Trump had the now-controversial call with Zelensky.
A month later, on Aug. 26, the whistleblower complaint was forwarded to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.
Schiff subpoenaed Maguire on Sept. 13, claiming the acting director was unlawfully withholding a whistleblower complaint from Congress, possibly to protect the president or top administration officials. Maguire testified publicly before the committee on Thursday.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper tweeted on Sept. 18 that he had a "productive call" with Ukraine's defense minister.
"I am optimistic about his vision for MoD [the Ministry of Defense] and commitment to defense and anti-corruption reforms. I expressed unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," Esper said.
On Wednesday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked the Pentagon Office of the Inspector General to investigate the Defense Department's potential role in withholding $250 million in military aid to Ukraine.
"I’m calling on the DoD OIG to investigate the withholding of Ukraine military aid appropriated by Congress, allegedly at the direction of the White House."
"The delay raises questions about whether DoD officials were involved in any scheme to target a political opponent," he tweeted.
Fox News' Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.