Multiple sources are reporting that Undersecretary of Defense John Rood has been asked to submit his resignation. CNN says that Rood has “lost support among senior national security leadership,” but there may be a simpler reason for the undersecretary’s departure: Rood was the person who signed off on the Defense Department’s examination of corruption in Ukraine. That review said that Ukraine had met all the goals set forward in legislation to combat corruption and promote democracy and was eligible to receive military funding allocated to it by Congress.
Throughout the impeachment hearings, members of the Defense Department, such as Laura Cooper, testified that investigations of Ukraine had found no reason to withhold military assistance funding. Subsequent letters revealed by filings under the Freedom of Information Act have made it clear that when Donald Trump’s demand to freeze the aid was passed to the Pentagon by officials in the Office of Management and Budget, those officials knew they were breaking the law. And now Rood is the next one to pay the price for being honest when Trump is in charge.
Rood made another mistake when it comes to hanging around Washington in the Age of Trump. Shortly after Trump’s “perfect” call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Rood emailed his boss, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, to inform him 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."
Rood also made Esper aware that a group of Pentagon officials were meeting to figure out how they could deal with Trump’s demands.
So Rood both:Validated that Ukraine had met the required commitments to fighting corruption and supporting democracy that were the only test included in the legislation authorizing the military assistance. Made it clear that placing a hold on the assistance was a threat to the national security of both Ukraine and the United States.
That’s not the kind of truth-telling that’s allowed in either the White House or the Pentagon under Trump. During the impeachment proceedings, Republicans in the House and the Senate repeatedly maintained that Trump had the right to place a hold on the assistance for any reason. He doesn’t. And they claimed that the hold did not represent a threat to Ukrainian security. It did.
The purge of Rood from the Pentagon shows that the general housecleaning of anyone who dared to speak the truth during Trump’s impeachment is far from over.