House Democrats plowed ahead with their impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump on Monday, after a weekend that found Republicans struggling to explain why the president solicited Chinese interference in the 2020 election on national television.
Adam Schiff, Elijah Cummings, and Eliot Engel subpoenaed the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget to start the week, seeking documents lawmakers say “are necessary for the Committees to examine [the] sequence of events and the reasons behind the White House’s decision to withhold critical military assistance to Ukraine that was appropriated by Congress to counter Russian aggression”.
The letters to the DoD and OMB (embedded in full below) cite media reports surrounding the administration’s alleged efforts to obscure the rationale for delaying the disbursement of hundreds of millions in aid. Late last month, reports suggested Trump ordered Mick Mulvaney to delay the $400 million just a week prior to the president’s now infamous call with Volodymyr Zelensky. That order was then conveyed to State and to the Pentagon.
Schiff, Cummings and Engel essentially recap a series of damning press reports as follows:
Officials at the Departments of State and Defense reportedly were “puzzled and alarmed” after learning about the White House’s directive. Defense Department officials reportedly “tried to make a case to the White House that the Ukraine aid was effective and should not be looked at in the same manner as other aid,” but “those arguments were ignored.” State and Defense Department officials reportedly contacted Congress to inform them of the freeze imposed by the White House.
In August 2019, Senator Ron Johnson was informed by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, that if Ukraine would “get to the bottom of what happened in 2016—if President Trump has that confidence, then he’ll release the military spending.” Senator Johnson stated: “At that suggestion, I winced.” He also stated: “My reaction was: Oh, God. I don’t want to see those two things combined.”
On September 9, 2019, the Committees wrote a letter to the White House requesting documents relating to “the actual or potential suspension of military assistance to Ukraine.” The White House never responded to this request, resulting in the issuance of a subpoena last Friday.
And so, Mark Esper and acting OMB director Russell Vought are now officially in the thick of things.
Esper has previously indicated that the DoD would comply with congressional requests. Late last month, he said the Pentagon will give House Democrats “whatever information” it can on why the aid was delayed. On September 27, for example, Esper said “We will provide to Congress and whomever whatever information we can provide with regard to this incident, just—with regard to this matter, just as we would with any other matter”.
DoD and OMB have just eight days to comply. Noncompliance, including and especially at the behest of the White House, will be considered evidence of obstruction.
Letters and subpoena schedules2019-10-07.eec_engel_schiff_to_esper-dod_re_subpoena