White House hiding documents that show officials waved red flags over reasons for withholding Ukraine aid: report
On Saturday, The Daily Beast reported that the White House is blacking out documents that could reveal more about whether low-level officials at the Office of Management and Budget were concerned that President Donald Trump's scheme to withhold military aid from Ukraine was illegal.
"The administration so far has declined to release copies of its internal communications about this vital issue — the legality of what Trump had ordered," reported The Beast. "On Friday, in 146 pages of new documents provided to the Center for Public Integrity under a court order, the Justice Department blacked out — for the second time — many of the substantive passages reflecting what key officials at the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget said to one another."
At issue is a federal law known as the Impoundment Control Act. Under this law, the White House must release funds appropriated by Congress, and cannot withhold them without a clear reason under law communicated to Congress. There was a September 30 deadline past which point failure to release any of the funds would be illegal — and while the delay ultimately did not hit that deadline, OMB officials worried that the longer they waited, the more difficult it would be to follow the law. At least two resigned rather than carry out the suspension.
"In an email on July 25, for example, as a senior OMB political appointee named Michael Duffey told the Pentagon’s comptroller aout the aid halt, he said, 'Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction,'" reported The Beast. "Throughout this period, the reason for the aid halt was rarely discussed, even within the government. In an email on Sept. 11 — the day the funding halt finally ended — OMB official Edna T. Falk Curtain told a senior defense official that 'I still have no insight on the rationale for the hold.'"
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