A confidential White House review reportedly found emails from top officials trying to justify Trump's Ukraine military aid block

President Donald Trump and Mick MulvaneyPresident Donald Trump and Mick MulvaneyJonathan Ernst/Reuters

  • A White House review of President Donald Trump's hold on military aid to Ukraine reportedly found hundreds of documents that detail efforts among senior officials to come up with a reason for the hold after it was issued.
  • The Washington Post reported that emails between acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials searching for legal backing for Trump withholding the funds.
  • The White House Counsel's Office is concerned that documents surfaced in their research include "unflattering" conversations and facts that could present some political and optics challenges for the president, according to the Post.
  • Trump has acknowledged ordering the hold and asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rival, but has said there was no quid pro quo, or conditions, for the aid.
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A White House review of President Donald Trump's hold on nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine reportedly found hundreds of documents that detail efforts among senior officials to come up with a reason for the hold after it was issued.

The Washington Post reported that the confidential probe came alongside the impeachment inquiry against Trump and details emails between acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials searching for a legal backing for Trump withholding the funds, according to three people familiar with the records.

The White House Counsel's Office is concerned that documents surfaced in their research include "unflattering" conversations and facts that could present some political and optics challenges for the president, according to the Post.

One month after Trump decided to hold the aid, Mulvaney asked acting Office of Management and Budget director Russell Vought about a possible legal explanation to back the decision, as the Post noted that OMB officials differed with National Security Council and State Department staffers over whether it was legal at all.

The same email came reportedly just days after the White House Counsel's Office was notified that an anonymous CIA official had filed a whistleblower complaint.

The withheld aid is at the center of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry after the anonymous complaint expressed concern over a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump appeared to present a quid pro quo that hinged on Ukraine's willingness to investigate former Vice President and 2020 contender Joe Biden for the funds.

Since the report, Trump has acknowledged ordering the hold and asking Zelensky to investigate his political rival, but has said there was no quid pro quo, or conditions, for the aid.

The role of the Office of Management and Budget has been called into question in impeachment testimony by Mark Sandy, a longtime Office of Management and Budget official, who told Congress that the White House's decision to freeze aid was "highly irregular."

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale's testimony echoes the findings of the review, as he said that Trump and the Office of Management and Budget were at odds over the military aid decision, and of a July interagency meeting, "The State Department advocated, as I did in that meeting, for proceeding with all of the assistance, consistent with our policies and interests in Ukraine."
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