Trump ordered the suspension of military assistance to Ukraine earlier than expected


In the past few weeks of impeachment hearings, Republicans have liked to cite a number – 55 – the number of days they believed military aid to Ukraine had been suspended.

According to their calendar, the clock starts on July 18, when a number of witnesses said they first learned of the hold.

But the clock really started a month earlier. On June 18, the Pentagon publicly announced he would free up his share of the money: $ 250 million.

According to documents reviewed by Just security, the State Department’s Office for Security Assistance sent the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a routine notification to Congress for its foreign military funding program on the same day: the 21st of June. The State Department needed the OMB to give the green light to the document, which described appropriate funding by Congress, including more than $ 100 million for Ukraine.

Shortly after submitting the notification to Congress, the State Department was informed that the White House had concerns about funding Ukraine, and State Department officials therefore began to inquire into this. that was happening exactly. Was it just the State Department money that had been frozen, or was the Defense Department program also shut down? And, if the money was really withheld, why? Between July 10 and 12, emails were sent from the state to the OMB to the office of the White House chief of staff, as officials tried to clarify what was going on.

Meanwhile, across the Potomac River at the Pentagon, Laura Cooper, who oversees Ukrainian policy at the Department of Defense (DoD), also learned that the White House has questions about DoD military assistance to Ukraine.

She said days after the Pentagon’s announcement on June 18, her office received a series of questions about White House funding. He was told the questions came from a meeting with the president, so Cooper presumed they came directly from Trump. The questions were as follows: 1) Does the US industry provide any of this equipment? 2) What are other countries doing to contribute? 3) Who provided this funding?

Cooper said his office answered these questions with a set of fact sheets. They explained that the vast majority of the companies providing the equipment were American. His office also told the White House that the UK, Canada, Lithuania and Poland are all helping to train and equip Ukraine. As for the third question, it was the most difficult to answer due to its “weird phrase,” Cooper said. “Was it something like that provided that funding, or where did that funding come from?” So his office replied: This is from Congress and it has strong bipartisan support.

After his office answered questions, Cooper never heard a thing. She had no idea at the time that the president wanted to put the money on hold, but behind the scenes this is what happened. And the word started to come out.

Army Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, who oversees Ukraine’s policy on the National Security Council, said that on July 3 he “had been made concrete that there had been a standby by the ‘OMB “.

News of the capture also reached the Ukrainians.

“On July 25, a member of my team received a question from a Ukrainian Embassy contact asking what was going on with Ukraine’s security assistance,” Cooper said. “Because at that time we didn’t know what the guidelines were… I was informed that the staff member had told the Ukrainian official that we were moving forward, but recommended that the embassy to Ukraine is checking with the state. “

Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden the same day.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect public testimony from Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale in which he corrected the first time he learned of the suspension of military aid: “In the statement that I made, the hearing in camera, I misspoke. I was confused and confused on June 21, when the state first sent the CN – the notification from Congress – to the OMB for clearance. It wasn’t until after July 18th or so and I think the 21st was when I heard that there was a potential hold.

Image: Drew Angerer / Getty

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