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House Dems subpoena Pentagon and White House Budget office of Ukraine aid amid impeachment probe
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House Dems subpoena Pentagon and White House Budget office of Ukraine aid amid impeachment probe

Why did the Trump administration withhold aid to Ukraine?

The chairmen of three Democrat-led House committees have sent out a new batch of subpoenas to Trump administration officials as part of the ongoing impeachment investigation against President Donald Trump.

Monday's subpoenas went out to the Department of Defense's recently confirmed Secretary Mark Esper as well as White House Office of Management and Budget acting Director Russell Vought and are for documents related to Ukraine military aid. The legal demands were sent by the Democratic chairmen of the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs Committees — Reps. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Elijah Cummings (Md.) and Elliot Engel (N.Y.), respectively.

"Pursuant to the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry, we are hereby transmitting a subpoena that compels you to produce the documents set forth in the accompanying schedule by October 15, 2019," the chairmen wrote in letters to Esper and Vought.

The news release from the three top Democrats explains that the documents are necessary to evaluate "the extent to which President Trump jeopardized national security" by withholding foreign aid and asking Ukrainian officials to look into the matter of a since-scuttled investigation of a company that employed former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter.

The release cites one story from the Washington Post and another from the New York Times that the funds were halted ahead of President Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

According to the Times story, Trump "personally ordered his staff to freeze more than $391 million in aid to Ukraine" ahead of the phone call" and "issued his directive to Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, who conveyed it through the budget office to the Pentagon and the State Department, which were told only that the administration was looking at whether the spending was necessary," according to two administration officials.

"The enclosed subpoena demands documents that are necessary for the Committees to examine this sequence of these events," the chairmen wrote, "and the reasons behind the White House's decision to withhold critical military assistance to Ukraine that was appropriated by Congress to counter Russian aggression."

The subpoena schedule for Vought and Esper includes documents, meetings, and communications going back to Jan. 1, 2019.

In prepared congressional testimony given last week, former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker told Hill investigators that he became aware of a hold on financial assistance to the country about a week before the phone call "and immediately tried to weigh in to reverse that position."

However, he also testified, "As I was confident the position would not stand, I did not discuss the hold with my Ukrainian counterparts until the matter became public in late August."

"The issue of a hold placed on security assistance to Ukraine also came up during this same time I was connecting [a Zelensky aide] and [Trump's personal lawyer Rudy] Giuliani," the former envoy said elsewhere in the statement. "I did not perceive these issues to be linked in any way."

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