The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a new legal memo on Wednesday indicating that the Trump administration’s decision to temporarily hold military assistance to Ukraine was a “routine” practice and that the administration was reviewing whether Ukraine complied with U.S. policy.
The memo indicated that the decision to withhold the aid was not a political action to block Congress’ spending decisions.
“The office first began discussing the aid on June 19, the day President Trump learned of the aid from an article in the Washington Examiner and questioned the wisdom of the spending,” The Washington Post reported. “That move sent aides scrambling, according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal conversations.”
“The Office of Management and Budget extended the temporary hold on the aid eight times in August and September, the last time being Sept. 10,” the Post added. “Almost immediately after that hold, the money was released, according to the new memo, which was reviewed by The Washington Post.”
OMB general counsel Mark Paoletta issued the memo as a response to a request for information on why the aid was withheld, a request that came from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
In the memo, Paoletta wrote: “For decades, OMB has routinely used its apportionment authority to prevent funds from being used. Often, in managing appropriations, OMB must briefly pause an agency’s legal ability to spend those funds for a number of reasons, including to ensure that the funds are being spent efficiently, that they are being spent in accordance with statutory directives, or to assess how or whether funds should be used for a particular activity.”
The memo reportedly stated that the aid was put on hold due to an administration directive “pending a policy decision,” and discussions about how to proceed with the aid were set for mid-June.
The Post added, “The memo says that ‘at no point during the pause’ did Defense Department attorneys tell OMB the Ukrainian funding would be prevented from being spent before the end of the year.”
The move to release the legal memo comes as Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee held a markup hearing on Wednesday evening to weigh introducing articles of impeachment against the president.
Politico reporter John Bresnahan noted that Democrats were appealing to American’s feelings during the hearing while Republicans stuck to hammering home the message that Democrats have never gotten over the 2016 election and have searched for any reason imaginable to impeach Trump.
“Democrats are making very personal statements during impeachment hearings. They talk about being immigrants, or the child of immigrants, or being a minority, and how Trump allegedly improper behavior impacts other Americans like them. It’s an interesting tactic,” Bresnahan wrote. “Republicans repeatedly pound this message – Democrats have never acknowledged Trump’s victory in 2016 and have searched repeatedly for a reason to impeach Trump.”
/2 Republicans repeatedly pound this message – Democrats have never acknowledged Trump's victory in 2016 and have searched repeatedly for a reason to impeach Trump
— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) December 12, 2019
Democrats have sought to impeach the president over a July 25 phone call that he had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for allegedly engaging in a quid pro quo.
Despite Democrats’ claims, multiple witnesses in their impeachment hearings, including Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Senior NSC official Tim Morrison, Ambassador Kurt Volker, and Ambassador Gordon Sondland have all testified that there was no quid pro quo during Trump’s call with Zelensky.
Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, who is Vice President Mike Pence’s National Security Adviser, released a statement last month stating that he was on the call and nothing improper happened: “I was on the much-reported July 25 call between President Donald Trump and President Zelensky. As an exceedingly proud member of President Trump’s Administration and as a 34-year highly experienced combat veteran who retired with the rank of Lieutenant General in the Army, I heard nothing wrong or improper on the call. I had and have no concerns.”