Emails shed light on Ukraine aid timeline


National News

December 23, 2019 - 9:51 AM

WASHINGTON — New documents show President Donald Trump asked about U.S. military aid to Ukraine a month before the call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that went on to trigger the impeachment investigation into Trump.

The heavily redacted documents, obtained under a Freedom of Information request by the Center for Public Integrity, also show that administration officials ordered a hold on the aid about an hour after the leaders’ call on July 25.

Trump asked about a June 19 article in the Washington Examiner newspaper referencing the aid. Michael Duffey, an official at the Office of Management and Budget, wrote to the Pentagon requesting more detail about the funding, according to an email from Duffey to the Pentagon comptroller.

“The President has asked about this funding release, and I have been tasked to follow-up with someone over there to get more detail.”

An email from Duffey to Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist on July 25, shortly after the Trump-Zelenskiy phone call, expressed uneasiness about the hold.

“Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know,” Duffey wrote.

Duffey, an OMB official working on national security issues, is one of four witnesses Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has requested for the pending Senate trial of Trump on two articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representative this week.

Schumer met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday to discuss the terms of a trial. The meeting ended in an impasse before Congress broke for the holidays.

Schumer “made clear to Senator McConnell that the witnesses and documents are necessary to ensure a fair trial in the Senate,” spokesman Justin Goodman said. McConnell has been pushing for a process that likely won’t include any witnesses.

The other officials Schumer has requested are Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, John Bolton, the former national security adviser who left the administration in September, and Robert Blair, an adviser to Mulvaney.

The House adopted two articles of impeachment against Trump Wednesday following an investigation into allegations that the president withheld military aid from Ukraine in an effort to extract politically damaging information about a domestic political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

The historic votes Wednesday won the support of almost all Democrats in the House chamber but not a single Republican, leaving Trump as only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said Saturday on Twitter that the new documents, which CPI — a nonprofit investigative journalism organization — reported late Friday, show that the internal notes show Trump’s “direct involvement” in the matter.

Murphy later seemed to concede that the documents, while important, were just the latest piece of evidence in a months-long inquiry spearheaded by House Democrats that still seems certain to end in Trump’s acquittal by the Republican-controlled Senate, some time in early 2020.

“Frankly it’s just the 77th piece of evidence confirming the same thing,” Murphy said in a reply to Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat.