Under a court order last month, the Donald Trump administration released a set of heavily redacted emails that contained the stunning revelation that White House officials informed the Defense Department of a then-unexplained hold on military aid to Ukraine. The emails came just 91 minutes after Trump’s fateful phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In that call, Trump asked Zelensky for “a favor,” setting events on a course that has culminated in Trump’s impeachment.
In an exclusive scoop, the national security news site Just Security reported today that its journalists “viewed unredacted copies of these emails.” The original documents not only contain startling new revelations about Trump’s direct involvement in the Ukraine scheme but raise serious questions as to why many of the redactions were made.
The emails provide significant “evidence of a cover up” and spell “trouble” for the Trump administration Budget Director and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, according to Just Security Co-Editor-in-Chief Ryan Goodman, who posted comments on the emails via Twitter.
In one unredacted email, according to Just Security Editorial Director Kate Brannen, Duffey tells the Defense Department that the “clear direction” to hold back the congressionally approved defense aid came directly from “POTUS.”
According to media reports late last month, three of Trump’s top cabinet officials — Defense Secretary Mark Esper, then-National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — met with the president in August, in what proved to be a futile attempt to persuade him to release the aid.
But according to Just Security, the unredacted emails show that within the administration panic over withholding the aid ran far wider than those three officials. According to the emails, Trump was playing a high-wire act with the aid, risking that it would never be released to Ukraine at all.
In fact, after a Politico report on August 28 broke the story that Trump was “slow walking” the “Ukraine military aid meant to confront Russia,” the Office of Management and Budget circulated “talking points” to be used by officials in responding to the story.
One of those talking points said that the administration had done nothing to stop the aid funds from being released by the end of 2019. But that statement was a lie — according to a Pentagon official who responded to the talking points — as revealed in the unredacted emails.
Pentagon Comptroller Elaine McCusker said in an email that the administration claim was “not accurate.” She added that the Defense Department had been “consistently conveying for a few weeks” that the release of the aid was in danger from Trump’s unexplained holdup.
According to evidence in the House of Representatives’ impeachment report, Trump was holding back the aid to force Ukraine to “investigate” his potential 2020 election rival, Democrat Joe Biden.