February 19, 2020 – Top Pentagon policy official who warned against withholding Ukraine aid resigns at Trump’s request

In Email/Dossier Investigations by Katie Weddington

John Rood (Credit: CNN)

“The Pentagon’s top policy official who warned against withholding military aid to Ukraine last year resigned on Wednesday at the request of President Donald Trump, according to a copy of his resignation letter obtained by CNN.

John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Pentagon, is the latest senior national security official involved in the Ukraine controversy to be forced out following Trump’s acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial, but sources told CNN that he broke with the administration on several issues, in addition to the handling of aid to Ukraine, leading to a loss of support from leadership.

“It is my understanding from Secretary Esper that you requested my resignation from serving as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Senior administration officials appointed by the President serve at the pleasure of the President, and therefore, as you have requested, I am providing my resignation effective February 28, 2020,” Rood wrote in his letter to President Donald Trump, dated Wednesday.

(…) Officials tell CNN that Rood has differed with the administration on a number of issues including Afghanistan and Ukraine. Officials have said Rood often was perceived as not embracing some of the changes in policy the White House and senior Pentagon officials wanted.

One official said some examples of Rood’s differing views from some of Trump’s key policy stances included being skeptical about peace talks with the Taliban as well as the administration decision to scale down military exercises with South Korea during talks with North Korea and him pushing for a more aggressive approach to Russia by supporting Ukraine.

Rood is the Pentagon’s top policy official and oversees aspects of the Pentagon’s relationship with US allies and partners.

He was involved in certifying to Congress that Ukraine had embarked on significant reforms to justify its receipt of $250 million in security assistance.

That certification undermined one of the justifications — concerns about corruption in Kiev — that some members of the Trump administration made to defend blocking aid to Ukraine.

Hours after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a conversation that was at the center of impeachment proceedings, Rood emailed Secretary of Defense Mark Esper — who had been in the job two days — informing him about an upcoming deputies meeting, “to discuss the President’s concern about endemic corruption in Ukraine and his reported view that US should cease providing security assistance,” according to emails reviewed by CNN.

Rood notes in his email to the secretary that “placing a hold on security assistance at this time would jeopardize this unique window of opportunity and undermine our defense priorities with a key partner in the strategic competition with Russia.” (Read more: CNN, 2/19/2020)   (Archive)