The White House released a number of documents late Tuesday that show efforts by the administration to withhold military aid to Ukraine last year — an issue that led to President Donald Trump‘s impeachment in the House and trial in the Senate.
The White House Office of Management and Budget made public nearly 200 documents, which include emails discussing the move a day before Trump made a key phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The documents, which are largely redacted, were released to fulfill a Freedom of Information Act request from nongovernmental watchdog American Oversight.
The 192 pages of documents show White House officials had already been discussing a move last July to withhold the Congress-approved military aid to Ukraine, before Trump’s call to Zelensky that ultimately drew a whistle-blower complaint and the impeachment investigation.
Trump is charged with abusing his power to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and interfering in the House impeachment investigation by refusing to cooperate and blocking administration officials from testifying.
The abuse of power charge contends Trump withheld the military aid as leverage to persuade Zelensky to announce Ukraine was investigating Biden and his son Hunter, a former board member of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
Many of the disclosed emails involved Michael Duffey, OMB’s associate director of national security programs, and show for the first time groundwork to withhold the funds had already been underway before Trump spoke with Zelensky.RELATED Senate sets rules for Trump impeachment trial, won’t subpoena witnesses
The Government Accountability Office said last week the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld the Congress-approved military aid, which was ultimately released last September.
One of the emails between Duffey and OMB Acting Director Russell Vought came on the day of the July 25 call, indicating there are other documents related to the delay that are being withheld, American Oversight said.
“President Trump’s lawyers stood in the Senate on Tuesday arguing that documents are totally unnecessary for the impeachment trial, but these documents give lie to that entire position,” said Austin Evers, the group’s executive director. “Despite the Trump Administration’s obstruction and the rhetoric at the trial, the public can now see even more evidence of the president’s corrupt scheme as it unfolded in real-time.
“The volume of material released, and the volume of material still secreted away, only highlights how much the administration has withheld from the House, the Senate, and the American public.”
White House attorneys said the documents are protected by executive privilege and that releasing them would weaken the institution of the presidency.