Donald Trump’s holdup of military aid to Ukraine over the summer was so unusual that two White House Budget Office officials resigned while raising questions about it, according to testimony by a senior Office of Management and Budget official, as quoted by The Washington Post. Mark Sandy, who testified behind closed doors in the impeachment inquiry on November 16, also said that he raised questions about why the aid was being held back.
Most of Trump’s political appointees have refused to testify in the impeachment proceedings. But Sandy, a longtime career professional in the OMB, showed up for his deposition, becoming the only official in the budget office to testify. A full transcript of his testimony was released on Tuesday and posted online by CNN. Sandy has not been recalled to testify in public, televised impeachment hearings, however.
In his testimony, Sandy does not name the two officials who he says quit their jobs amid the controversy over the withheld military aid. He says that one worked in the OMB legal department and expressed a “dissenting opinion” over the aid holdup. The official was concerned that the holdup violated the Impoundment Control Act, under which a president may not defy budget expenditures passed by Congress.
The second official who resigned, “expressed some frustrations about not understanding the reason for the hold,” according to Sandy’s testimony.
Sandy himself also raised questions about why the aid was withheld. He testified that he raised those questions on July 18, one week before Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky.
In that call, Trump appeared to link military aid to Ukraine to “a favor” that he wanted Zelensky to perform for him. That favor was to launch investigations into frontrunning Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden, and into a debunked theory — which Trump appears to believe — that Ukraine, not Russia, was behind the cyber-attack on the 2016 election.
Sandy testified that he was never told a reason behind Trump’s withholding of the aid package until September, according to a Bloomberg News account. At that point, he was told via email that the holdup had to do with Trump’s “concern about other countries not contributing more” to help Ukraine.
“It was an open question over the course of late July and pretty much all of August, I recall,” Sandy testified, as quoted by Bloomberg, adding that he could not recall any other instance in which he was denied a reason for a holdback of any foreign aid package.