Donald Trump Reportedly Ordered Hold On Military Aid Before Controversial Call With Ukrainian President

U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are pictured ahead of a state dinner honoring Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Australian First Lady Jennifer Morrison at the White House September 20, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Zach Gibson / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has ignited more calls for impeachment after he reportedly pushed Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to find dirt on Democratic presidential candidate and erstwhile primary front-runner Joe Biden. Some, including Harvard professor Laurence Tribe and fellow Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld, believe that the move could also be treasonous.

The Washington Post now reports that Trump ordered Mick Mulvaney, acting White House Chief of Staff, to put a hold on $400 million in military aid for Ukraine at least a week before the controversial call. According to three senior administration officials, who spoke anonymously, Trump ordered the hold because he had “concerns” and wanted to determine if the money was necessary. He reportedly instructed his administration’s officials to tell lawmakers that the delays were the result of an “interagency process” and speak nothing further on the subject.

The aid money was eventually released on September 11. During the time the funds were held, former national security adviser John Bolton reportedly wanted to release them in an attempt to curb Russia’s aggression in addition to providing aid to the country. But Trump was allegedly more concerned with “corruption.”

The report raises more concerns over Trump’s conversation with Zelensky and suggests that the president may have used congressionally approved aid as leverage in his attempt to push the Ukranian president to produce damaging information on Biden. Furthermore, the revelation comes amid a whistleblower complaint about Trump’s actions and increased pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to allow impeachment proceedings to move forward against the president.

According to the report, Zelensky walked away from the conversation with Trump and “directly” expressed concerns about losing aid due to refusing to investigate the Bidens to Sen. Chris Murphy. Murphy claims the talk took place during a visit he made to Ukraine earlier in September.

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“I don’t think it really matters. . . whether the president explicitly told the Ukrainians that they wouldn’t get their security aid if they didn’t interfere in the 2020 elections. There is an implicit threat in every demand that a United States president makes of a foreign power.. . . That foreign country knows that if they don’t do it, there are likely to be consequences.”

Although Trump’s conversation with Zelensky has been deemed treason by some, the United States criminal code defines the crime very narrowly. Per Law & Crime, undermining America’s election process or being disloyal to the country doesn’t constitute treason. Instead, it must be an act of “levying war” against the U.S.

“And ‘levying war’ against the United States requires active and direct participation in an armed conflict, not just ‘un-American’ speech or insufficient patriotism,” said University of Texas School of Law professor Steve Vladeck.