Report: Emails Show White House Knew About Trump’s Effort To Extort Ukraine
President Donald Trump and his allies have insisted there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine involving a hold on U.S. military assistance to the country in exchange for a public commitment to investigate Joe Biden, but an internal review of emails revealed that the White House was well aware of Trump’s activities.
Research by the White House Counsel’s Office, triggered by the impeachment inquiry, has “turned up hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether the delay was legal,” The Washington Post reported.
People familiar with the records told The Post that the documents include “early August email exchanges between acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials seeking to provide an explanation for withholding the funds after the president had already ordered a hold in mid-July on the nearly $400 million in security assistance.”
Those exchanges involve Mulvaney asking OMB director Russell Vought to update the White House on the legal rationale for withholding Ukraine’s military aid — which falls under the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act, requiring “ the executive branch to spend congressionally appropriated funds unless Congress agrees they can be rescinded.”
Mulvaney also asked Vought how much longer the aid could be held, according to the records. Vought and OMB officials reportedly argued that the hold-up was legal, but officials at the National Security Council and State Department were not on board with the move.
“OMB lawyers said that it was legal to withhold the aid, as long as they deemed it a “temporary” hold, according to people familiar with the review,” The Post reported.
Mulvaney’s email requesting an update was sent just days after the White House Counsel’s Office was informed “that an anonymous CIA official had made a complaint to the agency’s general counsel about Trump’s July 25 call to Zelensky during which he requested Ukraine investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as an unfounded theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
The White House subsequently released the aid, just two days after the House was made aware of the whistleblower complaint. Many have speculated that the hold might have remained until Zelensky announced investigations if the complaint had not been filed.
The trove of documents also turned up numerous emails between OMB and State department officials and others — which unlike White House communications are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests — “discussing why the White House was holding up nearly $400 million in military aid and whether the hold might violate the law.”