A potentially damaging new report says that the U.S. State Department went behind the back of President Donald Trump to release aid being withheld from Ukraine after a legal finding showed that the president had no legal standing in refusing to release it.
That package, which was approved by Congress and included $141 million, is now the center of an impeachment inquiry of President Trump amid allegations that he abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political rival, Joe Biden.
Trump is alleged to have held back the aid in an attempt to pressure Ukraine into publicly announcing an investigation that would look into the activities of Biden and his son, as well as an unfounded conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, had meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
A new report from Bloomberg News claimed that the State Department lifted the freeze on the aid several days before Trump announced that he did. The report noted that many members of Trump’s administration opposed his decision to freeze the aid, which was needed for Ukraine to bolster its military efforts in a war with Russian-backed forces.
It noted that Alexander Vindman, director of European affairs on the National Security Council, testified to Congress that several members of the administration recommended releasing the funds in an August 15 meeting with the president.
Ultimately, the State Department made a decision to move forward with giving the assistance to Ukraine, despite the opinion from Trump’s Office of Management and Budget that withholding the aid was not inappropriate or illegal.
As Bloomberg News noted, the State Department’s decision came with little time left in which the administration could send the congressionally approved money.
“The hold on funds provoked consternation, if not panic, at the State and Defense Departments because the law required them to spend the money by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 or lose it. In reality, they had to get the aid moving through the system two weeks earlier — around Sept. 15 — because of a requirement for a two-week notification to Congress,” the report noted.
It was ultimately National Security Adviser John Bolton who relayed the message on September 9 to the State Department that the aid could be released, just days before Bolton resigned from the Trump administration.
On September 11, Trump said that he personally made the decision to release the aid, but Bloomberg News noted that the new revelations undermine his account.