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

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTalks stall on defense costs with South Korea Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Trump floats testifying in impeachment hearing 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 TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' MORE froze the money in an attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe Biden2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul 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."