Trump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report

Trump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report
© Getty Images

Administration officials have been slow to implement President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump tweets ICE will begin removing 'millions' of undocumented migrants MORE’s surprise announcement that the U.S. will be cutting off financial aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, according to a new report by The Atlantic.

Trump left many top-ranking officials stunned when he announced during a weekend trip in March to his Mar-a-Lago resort that he was cutting off aid as illegal immigration from the three countries surges.

The State Department quickly issued a statement saying it would carry out his direction and “engage Congress as part of his process.”

But the Senate Appropriations Committee, which oversees foreign financial aid, has yet to receive any information on the order from the Trump administration, according to The Atlantic.

ADVERTISEMENT

A senior Democratic official told the news outlet that they have “heard nothing” from the Trump administration about Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador funding.

“What money are we talking about? For what purposes? What’s the timeline for this? It’s been weeks now, and we’ve asked multiple times, and we know nothing,” the aide said.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Democrats aim to block defense money from being used on Trump border wall MORE (D.Vt.), vice chairman of the committee, said that the slow response is the result of Trump’s “impulsive and illogical” decision.

“It caught the State Department and USAID by surprise, and they have been scrambling to figure out how to limit the damage it would cause,” Leahy told The Atlantic, referring to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The Hill has reached out to the State Department for comment.

Trump last month bragged that “nobody disobeys my orders,” but staffers disregarding the president's words have been a hallmark of his presidency even before The Atlantic's report.

A book by veteran Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward detailed last year how Trump’s former top economic adviser, Gary CohnGary David CohnTrump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report John Kelly had to break up argument between US trade officials: report The Hill's Morning Report — Dem ire at Barr intensifies MORE, pulled paperwork off of Trump’s desk twice to prevent him from withdrawing the U.S. from trade agreements. 

Cohn reportedly said he swiped the letter to protect national security and assured an associate that Trump never noticed the letter was missing.

The book also detailed how Trump called then-Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTop nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April Top nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April Overnight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One MORE in April 2017 and ordered the assassination of Syrian President Bashar Assad after his own people were attacked with chemical weapons.

“Let’s f---ing kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f---ing lot of them,” Trump reportedly told Mattis.

Mattis responded to the president that he would begin working on plans, but then told an aide, “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.” 

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s report outlined at least 10 instances were close aides or other government officials refused to carry out requests Trump made that may have violated the law. 

Trump notably tried to get the special counsel’s investigation stopped and asked former White House counsel Don McGahn to pressure Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump: I didn't fire Mueller since firings 'didn't work out too well' for Nixon Trump: I didn't fire Mueller since firings 'didn't work out too well' for Nixon GOP group urges Republicans to speak out on obstruction claims against Trump in new ad MORE into firing Mueller.

McGahn testified that Trump called him at home in June 2017 and directed him to tell Rosenstein that Mueller “had conflicts of interest and must be removed,” according to the report. 

The White House lawyer did not carry out the direction and said he would rather resign than trigger a "potential Saturday Night Massacre,” referring to then-Solicitor General Robert Bork, who followed instructions handed down by President Nixon to fire the Watergate special prosecutor after top Justice Department officials refused and resigned themselves.

Trump denied the damaging testimony detailed in the Mueller report.

“As has been incorrectly reported by the Fake News Media, I never told then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, even though I had the legal right to do so,” Trump tweeted. “If I wanted to fire Mueller, I didn’t need McGahn to do it, I could have done it myself.”