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Report: White House review turns up emails about withholding Ukraine aid

In response to the House impeachment inquiry against President Trump, the White House Counsel's Office started a review of his decision to freeze military aid to Ukraine, and discovered hundreds of documents showing efforts after the fact to justify the move, three people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.

Congress approved nearly $400 million in security aid for Ukraine, but Trump ordered a hold on it in mid-July. The impeachment inquiry is focusing on whether Trump held the aid, which Ukraine needed to fight off Russian military aggression, in exchange for Ukraine launching investigations into his political rivals.

Two officials told the Post that Trump decided to put a hold on the aid without considering the legal justification. In early August, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney asked acting White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Russell Vought via email for the legal rationale for freezing the aid, the Post reports. Over email, Vought and his staffers argued that it was legal, while State Department and National Security Council officials disagreed.

Mulvaney sent the email a few days after the White House Counsel's Office learned that an anonymous CIA official had complained about Trump's July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, when he asked him to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, as well as an unfounded theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.

Just one person from the OMB has testified as part of the impeachment inquiry, career official Mark Sandy. People familiar with his deposition said he told lawmakers the delay in aid was highly unusual, and he had never before seen political appointees in the OMB become involved in reviewing an aid package. Read more about the review — and why White House lawyers are concerned some documents could embarrass Trump — at The Washington Post.