Democrats say Ukraine aid documents from OMB show 'pattern of abuse'

House Democrats say documents they received from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) “suggest a pattern of abuse” that is “a troubling deviation from long-standing procedures” regarding the hold-up of aid to Ukraine at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

Democrats faulted the OMB for not following the regular apportionment channels, while laying out a timeline showing how the military aid of nearly $400 million was withheld at the direction of a political appointee.

“OMB took the seemingly unprecedented step of stripping career officials of their normal role in the apportionment process and instead vesting a political appointee with that authority,” the Democratic-controlled House Budget Committee wrote in a summary of the documents.

The committee did not release the documents from the OMB, but said it might as part of future legislative process. It also said it had only received a portion of the requested documents.

The summary laid out a timeline of the aid being withheld, pointing to appointee Michael Duffey, the OMB’s associate director for National Security Programs, for signing the withholdings.

The first formal OMB order to withhold funds came on July 25, the same day as President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry. 

The summary charged that even after the funds were released in September, $35.2 million was not released by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

A bill preventing a government shutdown extended the timeline for disbursing the funds, until they were finally released after bipartisan uproar from lawmakers.

An OMB spokesman said the summary was “the same old spin from Democrats.”

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“OMB has and will continue to use its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law,” they said.

House Democrats are investigating whether the aid was held up to pressure Kyiv to launch investigations into 2016 election interference and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats seek leverage for trial Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE and his son's business dealings with Ukraine. Trump raised the investigations on the July 25 call with Zelensky but the president has insisted there was "no quid pro quo" in his interactions with Ukraine.

A handful of witnesses have testified that they believed the aid was withheld as part of an effort driven by Trump's personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Horowitz offers troubling picture of FBI's Trump campaign probe Horowitz: 'Very concerned' about FBI leaks to Giuliani MORE to pressure Ukraine to launch the investigations. The officials have said they were not given a reason for the temporarily hold placed on the aid over the summer, however.

White House acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyDemocrats seek leverage for trial Lies, damned lies and impeachable lies Trump abandons plan to dissolve Office of Personnel Management: report MORE indicated at an October press briefing that the aid was held up in part because Trump sought an investigation of a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee.

Mulvaney has since walked back the remarks, insisting there was no quid pro quo related to the security assistance and accusing the press of mischaracterizing his remarks.

House Democrats wrapped up the public phase of the impeachment inquiry last week, and are expected to send their findings to the Judiciary Committee to formally draw up articles of impeachment in the coming weeks.