KEY POINTS

  • An email trove confirms a hold on Ukraine military aid 91 minutes after Trump talked to Zelensky
  • The emails reveal a Trump appointee asking the freeze be kept secret
  • The revelations were made by a Trump appointee that rejected a subpoena to appear before the House

President Donald Trump moved to withhold $391 million in Congressionally-mandated military aid for Ukraine a scant 91 minutes after that infamous quid-pro-quo phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25.

Newly acquired emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and a court order by the Center for Public Integrity (one of the largest investigative centers in the U.S.) confirm the White House acted in less than two hours to continue its freeze of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds it first put in place on July 18. The hold was ordered by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. according to NBC News.

The frozen military funds were eventually released on September 11 but not after the anonymous whistleblower (a CIA officer) filed his complaint on August 12 with the Department of State. This complaint was later exposed by media and formed the starting point for Trump's impeachment by the House on December 18.

Testimonies by expert witnesses at the House intelligence and judiciary committees in November and December confirm Trump withheld the aid in order to pressure Zelensky to publicly announce a corruption investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. The investigations also confirmed Trump's quid pro quo with Zelensky to this effect.

The 146 pages of heavily redacted emails were released by CPI over the weekend. Among others, the emails reveal a discussion between the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Pentagon over the military aid to Ukraine just hours after Trump spoke to Zelenskiy.

"Based on guidance I have received and in light of the Administration's plan to review assistance to Ukraine, including the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, please hold off on any additional (Department of Defense) obligations of these funds, pending direction from that process," wrote Mike Duffey, a political appointee now the associate director for national security programs at the OMB on July 25 to OMB and Pentagon officials.

Duffey is among Trump officials that refused to comply with legal Congressional subpoenas to testify before the House.

"Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute direction," wrote Duffey about the need to keep secret the details about the fund freeze. He wrote about this on the afternoon of Trump's infamous phone call with Zelensky.

A Duffey email dated September 11, reveals him sharing his feelings of relief with Elaine McCusker, principal deputy undersecretary of defense comptroller at the DoD. Duffey sent the email a few hours after alerting her he'd release all of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds.

"Glad to have this behind us," he wrote.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the newly revealed, "explosive" emails from Duffey is evidence for why witnesses should be called during Trump's Senate impeachment trial. Schumer is continuing to push for top Trump administration officials to appear before the Senate in the upcoming impeachment trial, a move rejected by majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

"Yesterday, we got new evidence about how important having these witnesses (is)," said Schumer, Sunday in New York.

Schumer questioned what the White House was hiding by requesting the hold on assistance be kept secret.

"So far, Senator McConnell and President Trump have come up with no good reason why there shouldn't be witnesses, why there shouldn't be documents," he said. "We don't know what the witnesses will say. We don't know how the documents will read. They might exonerate President Trump or they might further incriminate him. But the truth should come out on something as important as an impeachment."