Pentagon chief: Delay in Ukraine military aid didn't affect US national security

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Trump extends deployment of National Guard troops to aid with coronavirus response | Pentagon considers reducing quarantine to 10 days | Lawmakers push for removal of Nazi headstones from VA cemeteries No time to be selling arms to the Philippines Pentagon considers cutting coronavirus quarantines to 10 days MORE on Friday said that the Trump administration’s delay in sending $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, a move now at the center of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, did not affect U.S. national security.

“At this point most of the money is out the door. And at no time or at any time has any delay in this money, this funding, affected U.S. national security,” Esper told reporters ahead of a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart at the Pentagon.

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The aid in question is in the center of a scandal that includes whistleblower allegations that President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America MORE froze the money in an attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden campaign cancels fundraiser with Mueller prosecutor Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation MORE’s son Hunter.

Democratic lawmakers have launched a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump over the whistleblower claims that Trump sought to use the funds as leverage in order to tarnish Biden, the current Democratic front-runner for the 2020 presidential nomination.

First announced on June 18, the aid was delayed until Sept. 11, which Trump has said was due to concerns about corruption in Ukraine.

But a May letter indicated the Department of Defense (DOD) had certified that the nation had taken action against corruption.

Esper up until now has remained quiet on the topic, telling reporters traveling with him earlier this week that he’s “trying to keep DOD out of politics.”

Senate Democrats, however, on Wednesday insisted the Pentagon look into the matter, calling on the department’s watchdog arm to investigate the delay.

“The delay would appear to have hindered the Department’s statutory obligation to provide security assistance to Ukraine at a critical moment, and raises serious questions about whether DoD officials were involved in any scheme to target a political opponent,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wrote in a letter to acting Inspector General Glenn Fine. 

“As a result, it is imperative that your office pursue a thorough review of DoD’s potential role in these allegations, and provide your findings to the congressional defense committees in a timely manner.”

Esper said Friday that the Pentagon would provide to lawmakers “whatever information we can provide with regard to this incident, with regard to this matter, just as we would with any other matter."