White House budget official: Trump was personally ‘directing’ freeze on U.S. military aid to Ukraine
A career official in the White House budget office told impeachment investigators earlier this month that President Donald Trump was personally “directing” the alleged quid pro quo freeze on nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine, according to a transcript of his closed-door deposition released Tuesday.
Mark Sandy, a deputy associate director for national security programs, testified that his office received an email from a top aide to chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on July 12 saying that the administration should start preparing to put a hold on $391 million in assistance to Ukraine.
— Damian Paletta (@damianpaletta) November 26, 2019
Asked by an investigator to elaborate on the email, Sandy said it stated that “the president is directing a hold on military support funding for Ukraine,” according to the Nov. 16 interview transcript.
The aid was formally frozen on July 18 — seven days before Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy over the phone to do him “a favor” by launching investigations of Joe Biden’s family and debunked right-wing claims about the 2016 election.
Sandy said he repeatedly inquired about the reason for the hold on the military cash, which Ukraine relies on to push back against Russian military aggression.
The budget official said he didn’t receive an answer until September, when he was told the cash was frozen because of concerns about other European countries not giving Ukraine enough assistance.
Mark Sandy says an OMB attorney resigned in part because of the Ukraine military aid hold pic.twitter.com/gSM3AikYha
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) November 26, 2019
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the belated explanation reeked of cover-up.
“Given other testimony and the public admission by Mr. Mulvaney that the aid was held to pressure Ukraine to conduct the investigations desired by the president, this constitutes powerful evidence that this justification was concocted as an after-the-fact rationalization to justify the hold,” Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement late Tuesday.
The Sandy deposition transcript was released along with that of Philip Reeker, a State Department official who was deposed in the inquiry on Oct. 3. Theirs were the last outstanding deposition transcripts from the impeachment inquiry that kicked off in late September.
“It’s very concerning. It sadly meets all the evidence we heard in the open hearings.” – @RepDean on OMB’s Mark Sandy’s impeachment deposition transcript. Sandy said the President initially didn’t provide a reason for withholding aid from Ukraine. https://t.co/Vq6VvXt5kw pic.twitter.com/9mW6Zx8Tgc
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) November 26, 2019
Schiff released the last transcripts as his committee was working on its final report, which he expects to turn over to the House Judiciary Committee next week for consideration and potential drafting of articles of impeachment against Trump.