Washington (CNN)A White House review of President Donald Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in US military aid to Ukraine showed an extensive effort to justify that hold after it was placed and a question of its legality, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

The delayed US aid, along with a whistleblower report on Trump’s July 25 call with his Ukrainian counterpart, sits at the center of the Democrat-led impeachment probe into the President. House Democrats have argued that Trump used the delay of assistance as leverage to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals on that call. The President has denied there was any “quid pro quo” and Republicans have argued that bribery could not exist if Ukraine was not aware that the assistance was being held up.

In the August emails, Mulvaney asked acting Office of Management and Budget director Russell Vought to provide him with the legal reasoning for withholding the aid, asking also how much longer it could be paused, according to the Washington Post. Emails also show Vought and OMB staffers argued that it was legal to withhold the aid, while National Security Council and State Department officials objected, the newspaper said.

    The Post, citing two White House officials, reports Trump made the decision to withhold the aid in July “without an assessment of reasoning or legal justification.”

    CNN has reached out to the White House and OMB for comment.

    Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia testified last week before the House impeachment probe that Ukrainian officials knew there was an issue with aid as early as July 25 — the same day of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky.

      “What is going on with Ukrainian security assistance?” one Ukrainian contact emailed a member of her staff, Cooper recalled during the public hearing.

      Earlier this month, the US Defense Department Inspector General’s Office declined a request from congressional Democrats to open an investigation into why the Trump administration delayed the military assistance to Ukraine.

      Source: http://edition.cnn.com/


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