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Pentagon’s top policy official who certified Ukraine aid leaves office

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John C. Rood, and Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, testify before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C. March 7, 2018. (EJ Hersom/Department of Defense)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. President Donald Trump said John Rood has left his position as the top policy official at the Defense Department after just two years, the latest in a series of key departures from his administration following the Senate impeachment trial.

“I would like to thank John Rood for his service to our Country, and wish him well in his future endeavors,” Trump said in a tweet on February 19.

Bloomberg News reported earlier in the day, citing anonymous sources, that Rood had faced pressure to resign after officials lost confidence in his ability to carry out the president’s agenda.

Rood, who was appointed undersecretary of defense for policy in January 2018, gave Congress the green light in May to approve $250 million in security assistance to Ukraine, which is fighting Russia-backed forces in its eastern provinces.

The White House at Trump’s behest blocked the aid, a decision that was at the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment trial of the president.

In an e-mail on July 25, Rood warned Defense Secretary Mark Esper not to withhold military aid to Ukraine, where more than 13,000 people have been killed in a six-year war.

The message was sent the same day that Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, thanked Trump during a phone conversation for U.S. military support and said his country was ready to buy more anti-tank weapons.

Trump, a Republican, responded that he would like Zelenskiy to “do us a favor though” and investigate Joe Biden, a political rival, and his son Hunter Biden, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company.

Democrats said Trump’s investigation request amounted to a quid pro quo for military aid and launched an impeachment inquiry.

Trump was acquitted by the Senate on charges of of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress earlier this month.

The president immediately moved to oust officials who had given critical testimony during the impeachment hearings, including Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman, the Ukraine adviser at the National Security Council, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.