About 90 minutes after President Trump held a controversial telephone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in July, the White House budget office ordered the Pentagon to suspend all military aid that Congress had allocated to Ukraine, according to emails released by the Pentagon late Friday.
A budget official, Michael Duffey, also told the Pentagon to keep quiet about the aid freeze because of the “sensitive nature of the request,” according to a message dated July 25.
An earlier email that Mr. Duffey sent to the Pentagon comptroller suggested that Mr. Trump began asking aides about $250 million in military aid set aside for Ukraine after noticing a June 19 article about it in the Washington Examiner.
The emails add to public understanding of the events that prompted the Democratic-led House to call for Mr. Trump to be removed from office. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress along a party-line vote after documents and testimony by senior administration officials revealed that he had withheld $391 million in aid to Ukraine at the same time that he asked for investigations from the Ukrainian president that would benefit him politically.
The emails were in a batch of 146 pages of documents released by the Pentagon late Friday to the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit news organization and watchdog group, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, has pressed for Mr. Duffey, a political appointee who is associate director of national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget, to testify in a Senate trial. On Twitter on Saturday, he pointed to the July 25 email as “all the more reason” Mr. Duffey and others must appear. Republican Senate leaders have indicated they do not plan to call witnesses.
The email raises further questions about the process by which Mr. Trump imposed the hold on the military aid, and the link between the hold and the requests he made of Mr. Zelensky in the telephone call, which prompted concern among national security officials with knowledge of the conversation.
In the call, after Mr. Zelensky mentioned Ukraine was ready to buy anti-tank missiles to use in a war against a Russian-backed insurgency, Mr. Trump said, “I would like you to do us a favor though,” according to a reconstructed transcript released by the White House. He then pressed Mr. Zelensky to open an investigation based on a conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 United States elections and one based on unsubstantiated claims of corrupt acts by former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential candidate.
Duffey, along with former National Security Adviser John Bolton's Mustache, and outgoing White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, absolutely need to testify before the Senate impeachment trial.
I'm under no illusion that Mitch McConnell will ever allow it, I fully expect him to dispose of the Senate trial before MLK Day with a quick series of votes. But Nancy Pelosi was correct to hold back sending over articles of impeachment to the Senate until the rules of a trial can be made clear, and it's Mitch who's going have to eat the elephant dung sandwich on making the cover-up official.
It won't matter as far as the Senate trial goes, any more than the fact an overwhelming majority of Americans want universal firearms background checks, but if enough GOP senators pay the price in November for aiding and abetting Trump's crimes, along with Trump himself, maybe the republic will be given a chance to heal.