White House budget office documents show lawyers approved language delaying Ukraine aid the night before President Trump spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
An email written by career budget official Mark Sandy, released with hundreds of other communications late Tuesday, says White House Office of Management and Budget lawyers approved language stalling the aid on the night of July 24.
The email indicates the hold was planned before the call, providing a counterpoint to Democrats who allege the Pentagon was notified after the conversation between the leaders.
At 9 a.m. on July 25, three minutes before the half-hour call, Mike Duffey, a political appointee at the budget office, wrote to Sandy: “Mark — did GC send the footnote?”
“OGC sent it last night,” Sandy responded at 9:19 a.m., referring to the agency’s office of general counsel.
The footnote he was referring to was a memo attached to a routine budget document that explained the aid was being withheld from Ukraine.
Sandy, the only budget office aide to testify during House impeachment proceedings, sent the message midway through Trump’s half-hour call with Zelensky, which ended at 9:33 a.m.
Trump urged Zelensky to investigate Democrats, including Joe Biden and his son Hunter, triggering a whistleblower complaint and his impeachment.
Democrats have requested four witnesses to testify at Trump’s impeachment trial, including Duffey.
On Tuesday impeachment managers noted Duffey informed Pentagon officials of the aid hold, which stopped distribution of funds but allowed continued planning, about 90 minutes after Trump ended his call with Zelensky.
“Just 90 minutes after President Trump hung up the phone, Duffey… emailed DOD to quote formalize the hold,” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.).
“What exactly was the guidance that Duffey received?” asked Texas Rep. Sylvia Garcia, another impeachment manager. “Was it connected to Trump’s phone call? … The Senate should demand the answers to these questions.”
Emails released to American Oversight, which filed a Freedom of Information Act request, and in December to the Center for Public Integrity, show that budget office officials began inquiring about nearly $400 million in Ukraine aid in June.
Democrats and the Government Accountability Office argue the aid hold was unlawful. OMB and Republicans argue a temporary delay was allowed because funds simply were supposed to be spent by the end of the fiscal year.
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