White House laid groundwork to freeze Ukraine aid before Zelensky call – media

16:20, 22 January 2020
World
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REUTERS

Officials at the White House's Office of Management and Budget were laying the groundwork to freeze military aid to Ukraine the night before President Donald Trump's controversial phone call with the Ukrainian President, newly released, heavily redacted emails show.

On the evening of July 24, the night before the call, OMB officials shared a "Ukraine Prep Memo" with Michael Duffey -- the office's associate director of national security programs, a political appointee and the budget official who would play a direct role in carrying out Trump's funding freeze, CNN reports.

"We will be standing by to answer any questions that you have and are happy to schedule time to discuss if you like," OMB official Paul Denaro wrote to Duffey that evening.

The contents of the Ukraine memo are redacted, as are many other parts of most of the emails released publicly early Wednesday morning.

That same evening of July 24, it appears the general counsel's office prepared a footnote for budget officials. The footnote is the technical device officials at the budget office used to pause the funding.

Read alsoTrump lawyers: President did "absolutely nothing wrong" on Ukraine – VOA

At 9:00 on July 25, Duffey asked career OMB official Mark Sandy about the footnote. Sandy replied that it was sent the previous night. Sandy then shares the revised footnote. Some of the correspondence is redacted, but Sandy adds: "Please copy me on the email to DOD."

The email seemed to be a reference to the next step in freezing funds: Notifying the Defense Department of the hold.

Previous troves of documents handed over by the administration revealed that on July 25, roughly 90 minutes after Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Duffey notified the Pentagon that security funding for Ukraine would be frozen.

The latest emails, though, show that the paperwork to execute such a decision had already been underway at OMB in the days leading up to the call.

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