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Trump budget official ordered hold on Ukraine aid after call: emails

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  • Officials in the Office of Management and Budget reportedly began ordering the Pentagon to freeze aid agreements to Ukraine around 90 minutes after President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • The phone call first came under harsh scrutiny in an anonymous whistleblower report, and was at the center of the House’s successful vote to impeach President Donald Trump on December 18 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
  • The order to freeze aid was revealed in a new trove of documents that were released by a court in response to a FOIA lawsuit after the impeachment vote, detailing an email sent shortly after the call in which OMB official Mike Duffey ordered Pentagon officials to not install new defense aid obligations. 
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President Donald Trump’s budget office appointees reportedly began ordering the Pentagon to hold aide to Ukraine approximately 90 minutes after Trump spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to newly released documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

The newly released documents show a budget official’s email to select budget and Pentagon officials shortly after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky, in which Trump discussed former Vice President and fellow 2020 contender Joe Biden and his son and asked Zelensky to “do us a favor.”

Mike Duffey, Trump’s appointed associate director for national security programs in the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in an email that the administration was reviewing its plan to provide assistance to Ukraine, and ordered officials to not install new defense aid obligations. 

“Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute direction,” Duffey wrote in an added note of concern.

The email was among 146 pages of heavily redacted emails obtained through a court order responding to a Freedom of Information Act request. 

Duffey was subpoenaed in October after he declined to testify voluntarily. Duffey defied the subpoena. 

However, he was at the center of testimony from Mark Sandy, the only OMB official to testify in the impeachment inquiry, who said Duffey had abruptly taken over authority in signing off on documents that concerned aid for Ukraine, which he said made his staff “surprised and they were concerned.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote on Twitter that the revelation of the email “is all the more reason why” Duffey should testify before the Senate as part of the impeachment inquiry.

The pause on aid was first introduced in a July 18 interagency meeting, in which Trump first announced the freeze and the administration told Congress the aid wasn’t granted because of an “interagency delay.” However, it’s unclear if Duffey’s email was an official action that would officially advance the announced hold based on the call.

The documents were released on December 20, in response to multiple Freedom of Information Act lawsuits from members of the public and third-party groups.

Impeachment proceedings will now continue in the Republican-majority Senate, which will hold a trial, and almost certainly acquit the president. Lawmakers have differed on how to approach the trial, but by law Trump will continue to hold office, only to be removed if at least two-thirds of the Senate vote to convict him. 

Read more:

Impeachment explained: No, it won’t nullify an election or allow a 3rd term

The best memes from Trump’s impeachment so far

Here’s what’s next for the Senate vote on impeachment

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