Two budget staffers resigned after voicing concerns about halted Ukraine aid, official says

Two staffers for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) resigned after expressing frustrations about a hold on military assistance to Ukraine that is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry, a witness has testified.

Mark Sandy, an OMB staffer, testified this month that the two staffers, one of whom was in the legal division, had resigned partially due to frustrations with the unexplained aid freeze, according to a transcript of his testimony released Tuesday

Sandy recalled that one individual who resigned had "expressed some frustrations about not understanding the reason for the hold," according to the transcript, but he noted that he was "reluctant to speak to someone else's motivations."

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He was also asked whether the OMB legal division employee said they were leaving "at least in part because of their concerns on frustrations about the hold on Ukraine security assistance."

"Yes, in terms of that process, in part," Sandy responded.

The officials were not named in the transcript.

A senior administration official categorized the assertion that the two officials resigned in part over the aid freeze as false in an email to The Hill.

Sandy also testified that he believed President TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE had directed the hold on Ukraine aid.

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His testimony was part of the House's impeachment inquiry into Trump's dealings with Ukraine, including the freeze on security assistance.

The transcript of Sandy's closed-door interview was one of the latest released by House Democrats. They also released testimony from a closed-door session with Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of State in charge of European and Eurasian Affairs.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE (D-Calif.), Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyDOJ tells former Trump officials they can testify in Jan. 6 investigations: report Overnight Energy: Democrats request interview with Exxon lobbyist after undercover tapes | Biden EPA to reconsider Trump rollback on power plant pollution in 2022 | How climate change and human beings influence wildfires Democrats request interview with Exxon lobbyist after undercover tapes MORE (D-N.Y.), and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelNYC snafu the latest flub from a broken elections agency Cynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney Democrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Tuesday that the Reeker and Sandy interviews bolster their case against Trump. 

"The testimonies from Ambassador Reeker and Mr. Sandy continue to paint a portrait of hand-picked political appointees corrupting the official levers of U.S. government power, including by withholding taxpayer funded military assistance to Ukraine, to further the President’s own personal political agenda," they said.

Hours after Democrats released the transcripts, Trump appeared at a campaign rally in Florida, where he blasted the ongoing impeachment inquiry, with supporters breaking into a chant of "bullshit" when he insisted that the inquiry was falling flat with voters.

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The transcripts' release comes as Schiff's panel works to put together a report for the Judiciary Committee that will be used to determine whether to draft articles of impeachment against Trump. 

The House launched the inquiry after revelations that Trump had asked Ukraine's president to look into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Iowa governor suggests immigrants partially to blame for rising COVID-19 cases Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE, a top political rival and leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Updated: 10 p.m.