White House review turns up emails showing extensive effort to justify Trump’s decision to block Ukraine military aid

People familiar with the Office of Management and Budget’s handling of the holdup in aid acknowledged the internal discussions going on during August, but characterized the conversations as calm, routine and focused on the legal question of how to comply with the congressional Budget and Impoundment Act, which requires the executive branch to spend congressionally appropriated funds unless Congress agrees they can be rescinded.

…In the early August email exchanges, Mulvaney asked acting OMB director Russell Vought for an update on the legal rationale for withholding the aid and how much longer it could be delayed. 

…The office of White House Counsel Pat Cipollone oversaw the records review.

…The document research has only exacerbated growing tension between Cipollone and Mulvaney and their offices, with Cipollone tightly controlling access to his findings, and Mulvaney’s aides complaining Cipollone isn’t briefing other White House officials or sharing important material they need to respond to public inquiries.

Mark Sandy, a career OMB official, has testified that the decision to delay aid to Ukraine was highly unusual, and senior political appointees in his office wanted to be involved in reviewing the aid package. Sandy testified that he had never seen a senior political OMB official assume control of a portfolio in such a fashion, according to the people familiar with his testimony.

Sandy told impeachment investigators he had questions about whether it was legal to withhold aid Congress had expressly authorized to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia, but OMB lawyers told him it was fine as long as they called it a temporary hold.

White House review turns up emails showing extensive effort to justify Trump’s decision to block Ukraine military aid – The Washington Post

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