A delegation of Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee is traveling to Ukraine this week, a Democratic aide to the committee confirmed to The Daily Beast on Monday.
The trip has been in the works for some time and includes stops elsewhere in Europe, but it is moving forward at a moment when Ukraine is dominating American politics. In the last week, an anonymous whistleblower’s allegation that President Trump repeatedly pressed the president of Ukraine to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden has gone public, and the expanding congressional probe into those claims is forming the basis of an official impeachment inquiry from House Democrats.
The delegation is the first group of U.S. lawmakers to travel to Ukraine since early September, before any details of the whistleblower’s complaint were publicly known.
The Democratic committee aide affirmed the trip is unrelated to the current Ukraine news, and said that lawmakers are heading there to perform oversight over the U.S. military’s European area of command, or EUCOM. The aide declined to go into more detail about the trip.
Of course, a key detail of the Trump-Ukraine saga falls under the purview of Armed Services Committee members: the Trump administration sat on $250 million in security assistance to the country—which has been sent without incident for each of the last four years—while the president and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pressed the newly-elected administration of Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. After bipartisan outcry, the administration suddenly released the aid on Sept. 12.
Whether or not the security aid was the center of a quid-pro-quo arrangement sought by Trump remains a key question in Democrats’ investigation. Lawmakers on the House Appropriations and Budget Committees sent letters to the administration last Friday demanding a full explanation of how and why the funds were withheld.