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

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Government funding bill butts up against deadline | Pentagon reports eighth military COVID-19 death | Trump, Pentagon collide over anti-diversity training push Trump, Pentagon collide over anti-diversity training push Overnight Defense: Stopgap spending measure awaits Senate vote | Trump nominates former Nunes aide for intelligence community watchdog | Trump extends ban on racial discrimination training to contractors, military 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 TrumpCensus Bureau intends to wrap up count on Oct. 5 despite judge's order Top House Republican calls for probe of source of NYT Trump tax documents New Yorkers report receiving ballots with wrong name, voter addresses MORE froze the money in an attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTop House Republican calls for probe of source of NYT Trump tax documents Judge's ruling creates fresh hurdle for Trump's TikTok ban Harris says she hasn't 'made a plan one way or another' on meeting Supreme Court nominee 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."