Democrats want answers from Pentagon chief on withheld Ukraine aid

Democrats want answers from Pentagon chief on withheld Ukraine aid
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Top Senate Democrats are demanding Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCoronavirus threatens joint US-South Korea military exercises: reports Hillicon Valley: Agencies play catch-up over TikTok security concerns | Senate Dems seek sanctions on Russia over new election meddling | Pentagon unveils AI principles Pentagon outlines new principles for use of AI MORE provide information on what role the Pentagon played in the withholding of U.S. military aid to Ukraine earlier this year.

In a Tuesday letter, Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedLawmakers wary as US on cusp of initial deal with Taliban Pavlich: The Senate defends its integrity Five Senate Democrats make impeachment case in Spanish MORE (D-R.I.) and Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee vice chairman Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development Democratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe MORE (D-Ill.) sent Esper a list of questions about the actions that led to the holdup of $400 million in security assistance.

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They specifically want to know about the $250 million in Pentagon funds that Congress had approved for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. Defense officials in May notified Congress of its plans to send the aid to Ukraine, but in July the White House Office of Management and Budget ordered the Pentagon and State Department to withhold the money.

“The withholding of those funds raises serious concerns about the Department's management of security assistance and the Administration's compliance with its statutory obligations,” the senators wrote.

The decision to hold back the aid is the center of an impeachment inquiry backed by House Democrats over whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests Sotomayor, Ginsburg should have to recuse themselves on 'Trump related' cases Sanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' Sanders releases list of how to pay for his proposals MORE used the aid in late July to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate 2020 presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSanders defends Castro comments in wake of backlash from some Democrats Klobuchar releases medical report that says she's in 'very good health' Candidates face pressure to exit presidential race MORE.

The money was released in mid-September following congressional inquiries.

“We are deeply concerned that the Administration decided to delay execution of this critical military aid to Ukraine and failed to inform the committees of this decision or provide a reason for the delay,” Reed and Durbin wrote.

The senators said they want to know who directed the freeze and how it was communicated throughout the chain of command; whether anyone within the Pentagon raised concerns about the holdup and how such concerns were handled; and why the administration did not inform congressional oversight committees of the delay in a timely manner.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, is gathering, preserving and reviewing all documents and records related to the Ukrainian aid, under direction from Defense Department general counsel earlier this month.