New, Heavily-Redacted Ukraine Documents Offer More Hard Evidence Of Trump’s Ill Intent

New, Heavily-Redacted Ukraine Documents Offer More Hard Evidence Of Trump’s Ill Intent

“Frankly it’s just the 77th piece of evidence confirming the same thing”, Democratic senator Chris Murphy sighed, in a Saturday tweet after documents released by the non-profit Center for Public Integrity showed the Trump administration discussed a hold on critical aid to Ukraine just hours after the infamous July 25 call between the US president and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Please hold off”, an e-mail from senior Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey to Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, time-stamped 11:04 AM, July 25, reads.

“Mike”, cites “guidance” he received and the administration’s “plan to review assistance to Ukraine, including the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative”. That would be the same program that Democrats attempted to safeguard in the spending bill this week by inserting language that required congressionally-approved aid to be released within 45 days by OMB. Trump threatened to veto the bill and force a government shutdown if the provision wasn’t removed, officials said.

“Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction”, Duffey goes on to say.

On June 19, Duffey e-mailed Pentagon comptroller Elaine McCusker. “The President has asked about this funding release, and I have been tasked to follow-up with someone over there to get more detail”, he says. He copies the entire Washington Examiner article in the body of the e-mail.

Two weeks later, OMB put a hold on the State Department’s portion of the funding for Ukraine.

Another e-mail – sent the day the funds were finally released – finds another OMB official telling a senior DOD official “I still have no insight on the rationale for the hold”.

At minimum, this is just further evidence to support the contention that the president in fact intended to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine to secure investigations into his political rivals.

The first e-mail above appears to show that the push to freeze the aid took on an extra sense of urgency within minutes of the call with Zelensky, during which Trump asked him to “do us a favor, though”.

As CPI’s Jeffrey Smith writes in the article that accompanied the release of the documents on Saturday, “some senior administration officials worried that by defying a law ordering that the funds be spent within a defined period, Trump was asking the officials involved to take an action that was not merely unwise but flatly illegal”. Mick Mulvaney alluded to that in his infamous October 17 press conference.

The documents are heavily redacted. CPI explains as follows:

To learn more, Public Integrity in late September petitioned the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department for copies of their communications about the aid halt. But the Justice Department so far – in two document releases on Dec. 12 and 20 — has chosen to conceal key passages in those documents. And the federal district court judge overseeing the case, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, on Dec. 18 set a schedule for reviewing Public Integrity’s appeal that makes a final determination of the request unlikely to occur before March.

The article, which is painstakingly detailed, also includes a helpful timeline for those still struggling to wrap their heads around this historic debacle. Regular readers will note that most of these episodes have been covered extensively in these pages. We’ll present the timeline, along with the full document cache below and again encourage you to read the full article from CPI here.

  • President Trump approves the first provision of lethal, defensive aid to Ukraine, widening a program of heightened assistance initiated by the Obama administration after Russia’s 2014 seizure of Ukrainian territory in Crimea.
  • Dec. 2017
    President Trump approves the first provision of lethal, defensive aid to Ukraine, widening a program of heightened assistance initiated by the Obama administration after Russia’s 2014 seizure of Ukrainian territory in Crimea.
  • Sept. 28, 2018
    Trump signs into law a 2019 spending bill that includes $250 million in Defense Department funding for direct military aid to Ukraine.
  • Feb. 15, 2019
    Trump signs into law another 2019 spending bill that includes $141 million in State Department funding for Ukraine’s military needs.
  • Feb. 28, 2019
    Defense Department Undersecretary for Policy John C. Rood tells Congress the Pentagon will start disbursing the first half of its aid to Ukraine.
  • April 21, 2019
    Actor and comedian Vlodymyr Zelensky is elected president of Ukraine by a wide margin, instantly becoming a target of pressure from the White House to announce two investigations, one into Ukraine’s alleged support for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and the other into lucrative business ties former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, established in 2014 with a company in Ukraine. The campaign begins with an order by the White House a few days later for the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
  • May 3, 2019
    Trump discusses Ukraine with Russian president Vladimir Putin in a telephone call, including what Trump described as the “Russia Hoax,” namely the intelligence community’s unanimous judgment that it was Russia that intervened in 2016 to help get him elected.
  • May 13, 2019
    Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban meets with Trump at the White House and criticizes Ukraine, according to testimony by a White House aide.
  • May 14, 2019
    Trump blocks Vice President Pence from attending Zelensky’s May 20 inauguration, according to a Pence aide’s testimony. He instead sends Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Special Ukraine Representative Kurt Volker, and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. The three of them – as the self-described “Three Amigos” – wind up helming a campaign in coordination with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to pressure Zelensky about the probes.
  • May 23, 2019
    After an internal administration review, Rood, a former senior VP at the Lockheed Martin Corp. and missile analyst at the CIA, notifies Congress in a letter that Ukraine “has taken substantial actions … for the purposes of decreasing corruption [and] increasing accountability.” He adds that “there remain areas that require significant attention,” but states that Ukraine has met all conditions for the remaining U.S. aid to be provided. On the same day, Trump tells the Three Amigos in an Oval Office meeting that they should “talk to Rudy” Giuliani about Ukraine policy.
  • June 18, 2019
    The Defense Department announces it plans to release its aid to Ukraine, provoking a newspaper article that in turn causes Trump to ask for details of the program.
  • June 19, 2019
    Trump raises concerns about the Ukraine aid through OMB officials and, in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, repeats a debunked claim that Ukraine played a role in concealing a computer server used by Hillary Clinton.
  • June 21, 2019
    The State Department tells the Office of Management and Budget it plans to spend the $141 million.
  • July 3, 2019
    The Office of Management and Budget blocks the State Department from proceeding.
  • July 10, 2019
    At a White House meeting, Sondland tells the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council that Ukraine must say it is conducting the investigations of Biden’s son and the 2016 election that Trump seeks, before Trump will meet with Zelensky. Zelensky’s aides respond in following weeks that he doesn’t want to be pulled into domestic American politics.
  • July 12, 2019
    All Ukraine aid is blocked at the President’s direct request, according to a message sent by a top White House official to OMB.
  • July 18, 2019
    A junior official at OMB informs more than a dozen officials at multiple agencies during a government teleconference that Defense Department aid to Ukraine is being withheld at the direction of the president, without providing any explanation.
  • July 19, 2019
    Sondland tells Zelensky in a phone call that he must initiate and announce the desired investigations, according to Sondland’s testimony.
  • July 23, 2019
    At a high-level government meeting on Ukraine, defense officials in particular raise concerns about the legality of the aid suspension. Those concerns are restated at a similar meeting on July 26.
  • July 25, 2019
    Volker tells a top aide to Zelensky it’s imperative that Zelensky say he is announcing the investigations, if he wants a visit to Washington. Zelensky then speaks with Trump on the telephone, saying he wants to continue military cooperation with America and that “we are almost ready to buy” more anti-tank missiles. Trump responds that “I would like you to do us a favor though,” and lists the investigations he wants. Ukrainian officials in Washington immediately raise questions with U.S. officials about the status of the military aid.
  • July 30, 2019
    Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper tells other top officials at a high-level meeting on Ukraine that legally, the administration will have to inform Congress if it wants to suspend the aid. No notification is made.
  • July 31, 2019
    Trump again speaks with Putin on the phone, and Ukraine is among their topics.
  • August 2019
    Ukrainian embassy officials express concerns about the status of the aid program in conversations with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council officer responsible for Ukraine, and with Catherine Croft, the State Department’s special adviser for Ukraine, according to their testimony.
  • Aug. 9, 2019
    Two congressional committee leaders tell OMB in a letter that withholding the State Department funding for Ukraine may be illegal.
  • Aug. 12, 2019
    A CIA officer who worked at the White House and then returned to the agency files a whistleblower complaint alleging improper White House dealings surrounding the Ukraine aid program.
  • Aug. 9 -13, 2019
    Volker and Sondland draft the text of an acceptable statement for Zelensky to read about the requested investigations, with the help of Giuliani. But a top aide to Zelensky balks.
  • Mid-August 2019
    National Security Adviser John Bolton meets with Trump to try to persuade him to resume military aid to Ukraine. He is not successful and resigns on Sept. 10 after multiple disagreements with Trump.
  • Aug. 19, 2019
    Two additional congressional committee leaders urge OMB in a letter to release the State Department funding for Ukraine.
  • Aug. 28, 2019
    The withholding of military aid to Ukraine becomes public in a Politico article. But the article quotes an unnamed senior official attributing the decision only to Trump’s desire to ensure “U.S. interests are being prioritized” and other countries are “paying their fair share” – the first of many different explanations offered by the White House to explain the interruption.
  • Aug. 30, 2019
    Sondland privately tells Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., he thinks the reason for withholding the aid is Trump’s desire to force the investigations. Trump privately confirms this to Johnson the following day, according to Johnson.
  • Sept. 1, 2019
    Sondland tells a top Zelensky aide, Andriy Yermak, that U.S. assistance is unlikely to flow until Ukraine provided the desired public statement, according to Sondland. Yermak disputes hearing this, however.
  • Early September 2019
    Zelensky makes an appointment to appear on CNN, where he plans to make the desired statement.
  • Sept. 10
    House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., demands to see the whistleblower complaint.
  • Sept. 11
    OMB releases the Ukraine aid.
  • Sept. 18 or 19
    Zelensky cancels his CNN interview.
  • Sept. 30, 2019
    The deadline for all 2019 federal spending, by which time all the Ukraine aid was supposed to be disbursed, or it would be automatically cancelled. Ultimately, $35 million was not spent in time but the deadline was extended in new legislation passed Sept. 19.

 

Full documents

CPI-v-DoD-Dec-20-2019-Release

2 thoughts on “New, Heavily-Redacted Ukraine Documents Offer More Hard Evidence Of Trump’s Ill Intent

  1. October 17
    “We do that all the time.” “Did he also mention to me the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about it. But that’s it. That’s why we held up the money … I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

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