White House review turns up emails displaying expansive effort to justify Trump’s decision to block Ukraine military aid

A profound White House review of the decision of President Donald Trump to place a hold on military aid to Ukraine has turned up hundreds of documents. These documents disclose comprehensive efforts to produce an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether the suspension was legal, according to three people familiar with the records. A congressional impeachment enquiry triggered the research by the White House Counsel’s Office declared in September. It comprises early August email exchanges between acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials seeking to give an interpretation for warding off the funds after the president had already ordered a hold in mid-July on the nearly $400 million in security assistance.

White House lawyers are revealing concern that the review has turned up some unpleasant exchanges and facts that could, at a minimum, embarrass the president. It is unclear whether the Mulvaney discussions or other records pose any legal issues for Trump in the defamation inquiry. Still, some fear they could raise political issues if stated publicly. People who are familiar with the office of Management and Budget’s handling of the holdup in aid confessed the internal discussions were continuing during August. Still, it but characterized the conversations as calm, routine and focused on the legal question of how to consent with the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act, that needs the executive branch to spend congressionally possessed funds unless Congress admits they can be rescinded.

The hold on the military aid is at the heart of House Democrat’s investigation. That is related to whether the president should be shifted from office for allegedly trying to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political opponents in exchange for the U.S. support that President Volodymyr Zelensky badly wanted in the face of Russian military invasion. Trump has confessed ordering the hold on military aid and also pressing Ukraine’s president to look into his strong Democratic presidential opponent, Joe Biden, but said the release of the funds was not conditioned on Ukraine launching any inquiry.

Lottie Gray