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Mick Mulvaney. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

A confidential internal review found White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney asked budget office officials for an "after-the-fact justification" for withholding aid to Ukraine, the Washington Post first reported Sunday.

Why it matters: The issue of blocking almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine is central to the impeachment inquiry, as House investigators examine allegations that President Trump ordered the move to press for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Trump denies any wrongdoing.

Details: The WashPost and New York Times report that the records review by the White House Counsel’s Office discovered that Mulvaney asked in an August email after Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "whether there was a legal justification" for the move and for how long the military aid could be withheld.

  • The office examined hundreds of documents as part of its investigation, launched after House Democrats announced in September the impeachment inquiry, according to the Post. Per the news outlet:
"One person briefed on the records examination said White House lawyers are expressing concern that the review has turned up some unflattering exchanges and facts that could at a minimum embarrass the president. It’s unclear whether the Mulvaney discussions or other records pose any legal problems for Trump in the impeachment inquiry, but some fear they could pose political problems if revealed publicly."

What they're saying: Rachel Semmel, a budget office spokesperson, said in a statement to the WashPost and Times, "To be clear, there was a legal consensus at every step of the way that the money could be withheld in order to conduct the policy review. OMB works closely with agencies on executing the budget. Routine practices and procedures were followed."

The big picture: Trump has said he ordered withholding the aid to Ukraine so that European nations would contribute. He maintains there was no quid pro quo in his request to Zelensky to open an investigation into the Bidens.

  • Fiona Hill, Trump's former top Russia adviser, testified during last Thursday's impeachment hearing that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the EU, had a "deal" with Mulvaney to engage in a quid pro quo with Ukraine using a coveted White House visit.
  • A lawyer for Mulvaney issued a statement casting doubt on Hill's testimony, which he called "speculative."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Ipsos poll: Support growing for abortion rights in Latin America

Members of feminist groups in Saltillo, Mexico, after the decriminalization of abortion was approved in Coahuila, Mexico. Photo: Antonio Ojeda/Agencia Press South/Getty Images

Support for abortion rights in some Latin American countries has jumped considerably since 2014, with Argentina seeing the biggest shift, an Ipsos poll finds.

The big picture: The view that abortion should be permitted at least under certain circumstances is held by a majority of adults surveyed in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Biden claims "era of relentless war" is over in first UN speech

Photo: Eduardo Munoz/PoolL/AFP via Getty Images

Addressing the UN General Assembly for the first time since taking office, President Biden laid out his vision for how the U.S. will confront what he characterized as a "decisive" next decade in human history.

Why it matters: In the face of unprecedented global challenges — the pandemic, climate change, rising authoritarianism — Biden made a case for multilateralism, democratic values, the rule of law and empathy for common struggles.

Treasury sanctions cryptocurrency exchange over ransomware transactions

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen during a congressional hearing in June. Photo: Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Department of the Treasury announced Tuesday it will sanction cryptocurrency exchange SUEX for allegedly facilitating financial transactions for multiple ransomware actors.

Why it matters: The sanctions, the first against a cryptocurrency exchange platform, are part of the Biden administration's crackdown on ransomware in response to several high-profile cyberattacks this year.