Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and other top administration officials scrambled to try to figure out a justification for putting a hold on military aid to Ukraine after it had already been carried out, the Washington Post reports. A confidential review by the White House Counsel’s Office, which was triggered by the impeachment inquiry, turned up emails between Mulvaney and budget officials trying to figure out a way to explain President Donald Trump’s move to withhold nearly $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine.
One of the three sources who talked to the Post said that the review turned up some exchanges that could embarrass the president but it’s not clear whether they could bring fresh legal problems for Trump and his administration. Trump decided to place a hold on the aid in July without consulting anyone about its legality.
In early August, Mulvaney asked acting Office of Management and Budget director Russell Vought how much longer the aid could be held up and also requested an update on the efforts to come up with a rationale for the decision. While OMB staffers argued that the hold was legal as long as it was temporary, State Department and National Security Council officials disagreed.
The timing of Mulvaney’s request also seems suspect since it happened mere days after the White House Counsel’s Office was told that a CIA official had made a complaint regarding Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That official was the one who would later file the whistleblower complaint that ended up launching the impeachment inquiry.
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