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Ukrainian President Zelensky and President Trump during a September meeting in New York. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Office of Management and Budget is pushing back on suggestions that an email requesting the Pentagon withhold military aid to Ukraine 91 minutes after President Trump's phone call with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky was anything other than procedural.

Why it matters: Allegations that Trump froze nearly $400 million of congressionally approved military aid in order to pressure Ukraine to investigate a potential 2020 rival are central to the impeachment case against the president. But an OMB spokeswoman said, "It’s reckless to tie the hold of funds to the phone call. As has been established and publicly reported, the hold was announced in an interagency meeting on July 18." 

Driving the news: Emails released to the Center for Public Integrity show the OMB ordered the Pentagon to withhold military aid to Ukraine 91 minutes after President Trump's phone call with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, show.

  • The 146 pages of heavily redacted emails between the OMB and the Pentagon obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request and court order also show Trump asked about withholding aid to Ukraine the month before his July 25 call with Zelensky.
"Based on guidance I have received and in light of the Administration's plan to review assistance to Ukraine, including the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, please hold off on any additional DoD obligations of these funds, pending direction from that process. ... Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction."
— Excerpt of a July 25 email from OMB official Mike Duffey to OMB and Pentagon officials, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity
  • Duffey is one of four witnesses with direct knowledge of the Ukraine aid freeze who Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants to testify at Trump's impeachment trial.

What they're saying: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted that the release of the documents is important because it shows, "1. Ukraine aid was held just hours after the Trump/Zelensky 'do us a favor' call; 2. Internal notes show Trump’s direct involvement; 3. Staff knew it was wrong, kept it secret."

  • But the OMB spokeswoman said, "To pull a line out of one email and fail to address the context is misleading and inaccurate."
  • The president has yet to comment on the release of the emails, but he and his Republican allies maintain he did nothing wrong regarding Ukraine.

Read the documents.

Go deeper:

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include comment from the OMB and to clarify that the freezing of aid was discussed before the July 25 phone call.

Go deeper

9 mins ago - Health

WHO authorizes China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

A medical worker administering a coronavirus vaccine in Nanjing, China, on May 7, 2021. Photo: Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The World Health Organization authorized China’s Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Friday, making it the sixth vaccine to receive clearance from the global health agency.

Why it matters: The authorization will allow COVAX, the WHO's initiative to equitably develop and distribute coronavirus vaccines, to purchase Sinopharm's vaccine and bolster its supply, according to the New York Times.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hit a seven-month low — Majority back vaccine proof requirements for travel, schools and work — The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant.
  2. Politics: Why Biden's latest vaccine goal is his hardest yet.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccine — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations — Americans' return to the skies could benefit smaller airlines.
  5. World: Amazon postpones Prime Day sales in India and Canada over coronavirus surge — Mixed response in Europe to Biden's vaccine patents bombshell — True COVID-19 death toll is double the official numbers, study finds.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Derek Chauvin, 3 former officers indicted on federal civil rights charges

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

A federal grand jury Friday has indicted Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis officers for civil rights violations related to the death of George Floyd.

Why it matters: The new charges mean the officers could face another high-profile criminal trial following a yearlong racial reckoning across the nation.