WH Sought Freeze On Ukraine Aid 91 Minutes After Trump Spoke To Ukraine’s Leader
About an hour and a half after President Donald Trump spoke with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in July, the White House budget office ordered a freeze on all military aid allocated by Congress for the country, The New York Times reported.
Pentagon emails obtained by the Center for Public Integrity via a Freedom of Information Act request show that White House budget official Michael Duffy not only ordered the suspension of aid but also told the Pentagon to keep it on the down low due to “sensitive nature of the request.”
Administration officials had testified to Congress during the impeachment inquiry hearings “that the hold on the aid was announced at a meeting on July 18 involving a range of administration officials, including some from the Office of Management and Budget,” The Times noted. Other officials said they were aware of the hold in early July.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has pushed for Duffy to testify during the Senate impeachment trial and wrote on Twitter that the email revelations make his testimony all the more imperative; however, Republicans have maintained that they will not allow for witnesses during the eventual trial.
The document dump offers more insight into the timeline of Trump’s July 25th attempt to secure politically motivated investigations from Ukraine’s president, The Times noted: “That call took place from 9:03 a.m. to 9:33 a.m. At 11:04 a.m., Mr. Duffey emailed Defense Department officials telling them of the aid, “Please hold off on any additional DoD obligations of these funds, pending direction from that process.” Obligation refers to the process of a government agency designating how funds will be spent.”
Duffy added: “Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction.”
One senior administration official told The Times that the timing of the phone call and email were merely coincidental, saying “the email was part of a weekslong exchange over aid to Ukraine.”
Senior budget official Mark Sandy’s private testimony indicated that Trump began asking questions about the Ukraine aid on June 19, after he saw a report by The Washington Examiner.
Trump eventually released the aid to Ukraine in September, after he was made aware of the whistleblower complaint regarding his hold on the aid, which sparked the congressional investigation that led to his impeachment.