A newly released report from Bloomberg News reveals game-changing developments about the timeline in the Trump administration’s Ukraine scandal.
The Bloomberg report cited “five people familiar with the matter” and said, “President Donald Trump says he lifted his freeze on aid to Ukraine on Sept. 11, but the State Department had quietly authorized releasing $141 million of the money several days earlier.”
The Bloomberg report explained, “The State Department decision, which hasn’t been reported previously, stemmed from a legal finding made earlier in the year, and conveyed in a classified memorandum to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. State Department lawyers found the White House Office of Management and Budget, and thus the president, had no legal standing to block spending of the Ukraine aid.”
The report breaks down how the Trump administration was split over the decision to release funds, with Mick Mulvaney, who is the acting White House chief of staff AND the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in agreement with Trump’s choice to block the aid. Others, however, felt differently- namely then-National Security Advisor John Bolton who was pushing for the release of the funds.
Just to recap, the Trump admin’s decision to freeze aid to Ukraine, which included $250 million in military aid from the Defense Department, has been the primary focus of the recent impeachment hearings. Key witnesses have spoken out with claims that President Trump ordered the freeze on assistance essentially to force Ukraine to publicly announce that they were investigating Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats.
Ultimately, Ukraine didn’t make the announcement, which was said to have required the use of the words “investigation, Biden and Clinton” and Trump says there was never a quid pro quo.
Bolton and others in opposition to the freeze on funds recommended releasing the aid in an Aug. 15th meeting with the President.
The Bloomberg report states, “The OMB has argued all along that the congressional notification by the State Department was only one step and it still had the power to hold the money after it was sent because of its authority to apportion — or distribute — the funds.”
OMB spokeswoman Rachel Semmel even said, “At no point was this pause inappropriate, let alone illegal.”
But as Bloomberg reports, the State Department disagreed.
Impeachment testimony from the envoy to Ukraine, William Taylor, reflects the disagreement. He said that State Department attorneys had said that the aid could be spent despite the White House budget office hold. The hold was so critical and shock-inducing because the law required that it be spent by the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30) or it would be lost. Technically, that aid needed to be rolling through the system even sooner because there is a requirement for a two-week notification to Congress.
Although it had been determined that the State had the authority to spend the money, regardless of what Trump was saying through the OMB, the process slowed and slowed due to State officials being wary of further provoking the OMB and Mick Mulvaney, who argued that they could still use a process called “apportionment” to block the funds.
By late August, patience on both sides of the aisle was wearing thin and demands were calling for the aid to be released- and people wanted an explanation.
August passed with nothing but silence, and on Sept. 9, congressional appropriators asked again and were told there was no hold on the $141 million. Unbeknownst to them, some time shortly before Sept 9, John Bolton relayed a message to the State Department instructing them to go ahead with the funding, Bolton resigned from his job one week later.
Bolton’s actions caught the White House and Mulvaney off guard and were seen as against proper protocol.
The Bloomberg report says that “Bolton has declined to testify against White House orders unless a judge rules he should and didn’t respond to multiple emails seeking comment.”