Just hours after the United States Senate voted largely along party lines to prohibit any further evidence from being introduced at the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, the White House admitted in a court filing that it had been hiding 24 internal emails that would reveal Trump's "decision-making" process in his holdup of military aid to Ukraine, according to a report by The Washington Post.
Trump's refusal to release nearly $400 million in the congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine, which relies on U.S. funds to defend itself against an ongoing Russian invasion, is at the heart of the impeachment articles against Trump. A report by the Government Accountability Office ruled in January that the Trump administration broke federal law by refusing to release the aid.
The Justice Department filed the court papers at midnight on Friday, acknowledging that the White House Office of Management and Budget is in possession of 111 emails pertaining to the Ukraine aid holdback. Of those, the Justice Department claims, 24 are protected by "presidential privilege," according to the Post report.
"The documents in this category are emails that reflect communications by either the President, the Vice President, or the President's immediate advisors," about the "purpose" behind holding back the military aid to Ukraine, according to OMB lawyer Heather Walsh, in the court papers.
On Friday afternoon, 51 of 53 Senate Republicans voted against allowing witnesses and evidence into the impeachment trial. A final vote on whether or not to convict Trump and remove him from office is scheduled for Wednesday at 4 p.m. EST, according to The New York Times.
"Every single Republican Senator voted to endorse the White House cover-up of these potentially important truth-revealing emails," Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Saturday, as quoted by CNN.
The 24 previously unrevealed emails were written between June and September of 2019, and include an internal discussion among Department of Defense officials under the heading "POTUS follow up," according to the CNN report.
The emails appear to be different from an earlier set of OMB emails that were released in December in a Freedom of Information lawsuit by the Center for Public Integrity.
Those earlier emails revealed that an order from Trump to hold back the aid to Ukraine was relayed by OMB to the Defense Department just 91 minutes after Trump ended his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In that call, Trump asked Zelensky for the "favor" of investigating Democratic 2020 presidential frontrunner Joe Biden.