President Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine at least a week before a phone call in which Trump is said to have pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate the son of former vice president Joe Biden, according to three senior administration officials.
Officials at the Office of Management and Budget relayed Trump’s order to the State Department and the Pentagon during an interagency meeting in mid-July, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. They explained that the president had “concerns” and wanted to analyze whether the money needed to be spent.
Administration officials were instructed to tell lawmakers that the delays were part of an “interagency process” but to give them no additional information — a pattern that continued for nearly two months, until the White House released the funds on the night of Sept. 11.
President Trump’s July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart had so alarmed a White House official that he called a colleague at the CIA the next day to share his concerns, according to a memorandum.
The memorandum, now in the possession of congressional investigating committees, was written by the Central Intelligence Agency official who eventually would file a formal complaint under federal whistleblower laws about Mr. Trump’s interactions with Ukraine. The memo was shared with Congress last week by the Intelligence Community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, a congressional official said.
Mr. Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is at the heart of a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry into whether the U.S. president abused his office by urging Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Michael Pillsbury, an informal White House adviser on China, said he received information about the business activities of Hunter Biden during a visit to Beijing in the same week Donald Trump urged China to probe the son of Joe Biden. “I got a quite a bit of background on Hunter Biden from the Chinese,” Mr Pillsbury told the Financial Times. Mr Trump came under heavy criticism last week after publicly urging China to investigate the Bidens in a move that mirrored his request to the Ukraine’s president in a July phone call that has sparked an impeachment inquiry.