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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Deadly Hurricane Zeta pummels Alabama after Louisiana landfall

A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta. Photo: National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Hurricane Zeta has killed at least one person after a downed power line electrocuted a 55-year-old in Louisiana as the storm moved into Alabama overnight.

What's happening: After "battering southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi," it began lashing Alabama late Wednesday, per the National Hurricane Center.

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Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else in the world has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing," along with the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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