Raising stakes, Trump accused of personally delaying Ukraine funds

Updated

During a brief Q&A with reporters outside the White House on Sunday, Donald Trump was asked how he explains the delay in proving military aid to Ukraine in July. “I didn’t delay anything,” the president replied.

Overnight reporting from the Washington Post suggests his denial wasn’t true.

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.

Also last night, the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, and the New York Times published similar reports, making clear that it was Trump who personally put a hold on U.S. aid to Ukraine ahead of his chat with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

It doesn’t take much of an imagination to connect the dots here. The accusation has come into focus: Trump wanted Ukraine to intervene in the American election, but he needed leverage over his Ukrainian counterpart. The Republican took it upon himself to block the promised aid in the days leading up to a scheduled meeting with Zelensky, and then during the meeting, Trump leaned on the Ukrainian leader to participate in a partisan scheme intended to help keep him in power.

That administration officials received instructions to peddle a dubious cover story to Congress compounds the apparent offense. That Trump assured the public as recently as Sunday that he “didn’t delay anything” makes matters even worse.

If White House officials expect this to be a minor flap that blows over in a few days, they’re likely to be disappointed.