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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE instructed acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Conservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' 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 BidenNew York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Graham invites Giuliani to testify about recent Ukraine trip Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications 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 DurbinSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial Lawmakers introduce bill taxing e-cigarettes to pay for anti-vaping campaigns Senators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report 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 MurphyRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy On The Money: Trump, China announce 'Phase One' trade deal | Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records | House panel schedules hearing, vote on new NAFTA deal Schumer: Trump 'sold out' on China trade deal 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.