Trump instructed administration to withhold military aid for Ukraine days before call with president: report

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters MORE instructed acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyTrump names new acting director of legislative affairs 12 things to know today about coronavirus Mulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus MORE to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine shortly before a phone call in which he allegedly tried to persuade the nation’s president to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination The Memo: Job numbers boost Trump and challenge Biden Chris Wallace: Jobs numbers show 'the political resilience of Donald Trump' MORE’s son Hunter Biden, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Officials with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), for which Mulvaney also serves as director, passed the order on to the Defense and State departments in mid-July at an interagency meeting, according to the Post, citing three senior administration officials.

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OMB officials told the Pentagon and State Department that Trump had “concerns” about the necessity of spending the money and instructed them to simply tell lawmakers that the aid was being held due to an “interagency process,” which continued for nearly two months before the funds were released earlier this month, according to the newspaper.

Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee said on Sept. 12, a day after the aid was released, that the White House had delayed the aid to determine whether Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was pro-Western or pro-Russian and that a threat by Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGraham postpones Russia probe subpoena vote as tensions boil over Senate panel sends Trump appeals court pick to floor in party-line vote Democrats aim to amend Graham subpoena to include Trump allies MORE (D-Ill.) to freeze billions in Pentagon funds prompted the release.

One senior official told the Post that Trump held back the aid over concerns about corruption in the Ukrainian government and that it was released in advance of the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. The official denied the motivation was to pressure Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, telling the Post that “it had nothing to do with a quid pro quo.”

“I don’t think it really matters … whether the president explicitly told the Ukrainians that they wouldn’t get their security aid if they didn’t interfere in the 2020 elections,” Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump takes victory lap in morning news conference Pelosi demands Trump clarify deployment of unidentified law enforcement in DC Lawmakers call for legislation to force federal officers to identify themselves MORE (D-Conn.) told the Post. “There is an implicit threat in every demand that a United States president makes of a foreign power. … That foreign country knows that if they don’t do it, there are likely to be consequences.”

Trump has denied any improper behavior in the July 25 phone call, the subject of an anonymous whistleblower complaint, and left open the possibility of releasing the transcript, but on Sunday he told reporters the discussion involved “the fact that we don't want our people like Vice President Biden and his son [contributing] to the corruption already in the Ukraine.”

Trump has denied making aid conditional on any investigation of Biden. The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.