Trump staffers planned the Ukraine aid freeze the night before his call to Zelensky, further undermining defense

Trump Zelensky

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in New York.

  • Documents released by the White House budget office on Tuesday show that officials prepared to freeze military aid to Ukraine the day before Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine's president.
  • Trump has claimed that the decision to freeze Ukraine's aid was not an attempt to pressure Ukraine to announce a Biden probe, as Democrats have alleged.
  • But the documents show White House budget officials sharing a "Ukraine prep memo" the day before Trump talked to Ukraine's president, and urged him to probe the Bidens.
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Officials at the White House budget office prepared to freeze almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine the day before President Donald Trump's notorious July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, new documents show.

The revelation came on the same day as the opening of Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate, with the documents released following an FOI request by the transparency group American Oversight.

They undercut a central aspect of the president's defense - the president has dened he ordered the aid to be withheld to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation into Joe Biden, a key domestic rival.

In one email, dated July 24 - the day before Trump's July 25 phonecall with Zelensky - budget officials shared a "Ukraine Prep Memo" with Michael Duffey, the budget official who played a key role in the Ukraine aid freeze.

The messages, like most of the emails released Tuesday, are heavily redacted.

"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.

The timing of the email suggests that far from being totally separate issues, as Trump and his defenders claim - the aid freeze was tied to the pressure campaign for a Biden probe.

"The public can now see even more evidence of the President's corrupt scheme as it unfolded in real-time," said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, in a statement Wednesday morning. "The volume of material released, and the volume of material still secreted away only highlights how much the administration has withheld from the House, the Senate, and the American public."

Trump's impeachment trial got underway in the Senate on Tuesday, and will continue today.

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