Nov 26, 2019

House panel accuses OMB of "pattern of abuse" with Ukraine aid freeze

House Budget Chair John Yarmuth. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call

House Democrats accused the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Tuesday of engaging in a "pattern of abuse" by unlawfully freezing nearly $400 million in Ukraine aid, an allegation now at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, Politico reports.

Driving the news: A report released by the House Budget and Appropriations committees outlines a timeline of the aid being withheld, with the first official OMB action to halt the aid coming on the evening of July 25 — hours after President Trump's now-infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

  • The official freeze also came shortly after Ukrainian officials inquired about the aid, suggesting that they knew there was "some kind of issue," according to testimony from Pentagon official Laura Cooper.
  • The order was signed by career official Mark Sandy, but the process was later taken over by a political appointee — which Democrats argue is highly unusual.
  • Sandy testified behind closed doors in the impeachment inquiry, but his transcript has yet to be released. CNN reports that the OMB political appointee who took over the next month was Michael Duffey, who has defied a subpoena from House investigators.

Worth noting: The summary from the committees is only based on a partial production of documents from OMB.

What they're saying: House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey and House Budget Chair John Yarmuth said “legislative proposals and reforms” are being considered to address OMB’s control over congressionally approved foreign aid, per Politico.

  • An OMB spokesperson has denied wrongdoing, stating that the office "has and will continue to use its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law.”

What to watch: A federal judge Monday issued a preliminary injunction ordering OMB and the Pentagon to turn over some of the records related to the aid freeze to a journalism watchdog.

  • Approximately $35 million of the nearly $400 million in authorized Ukraine aid is still outstanding.

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2 budget officials allegedly resigned over handling of Ukraine aid freeze

Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images

The House committees leading the impeachment inquiry released the remaining transcripts from their closed-door depositions on Tuesday.

Driving the news: Mark Sandy, a career official in the White House Office of Management and Budget, testified that he was told in a July 12 email that President Trump "is directing a hold on military support funding for Ukraine," but that he was not given a reason for the hold until early September. He also claimed that two staffers — one in OMB's legal division — resigned at least in part over the hold on Ukraine security assistance.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 26, 2019

Report: WH review finds Mulvaney sought to justify blocking Ukraine aid

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.

Go deeperArrowNov 25, 2019

Judge orders Pentagon and White House budget office to release Ukraine aid records

Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

A federal judge on Monday issued a preliminary injunction ordering the Department of Defense and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for records relating to the Trump administration's freeze on security aid to Ukraine.

Why it matters: Allegations that Trump froze nearly $400 million of congressionally approved military aid in order to pressure Ukraine to carry out investigations into his political rivals are at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

Go deeperArrowNov 25, 2019