Trump’s freeze on Ukraine aid draws new scrutiny amid push for Biden investigation

Revelations that President Trump pressured Ukraine’s new leader to investigate the son of former vice president Joe Biden have focused fresh attention on hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid the administration withheld from the country until last week.

Trump’s actions — which inspired a whistleblower complaint that the administration has refused to share with lawmakers — involve a July 25 phone call between the two leaders, according to people familiar with the exchange, one of whom said Trump did not raise the issue of military aid during the conversation.

Privately, congressional Democrats are questioning whether the aid, which remained frozen during Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and for several weeks afterward, was related to the “promise” that sparked the whistleblower complaint and what Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson told lawmakers constituted an “urgent” and “credible” threat.

During August and September, lawmakers were engaged in what Republican and Democratic aides described as an unprecedented struggle with the administration to release nearly $400 million in military assistance for Ukraine — $250 million of it controlled by the Pentagon and $141 million by the State Department.

In the five years since Congress began approving significant support for Ukraine’s fight with Russian-backed separatists, lawmakers and the White House have periodically clashed over how much and what kind of assistance is appropriate. President Barack Obama controversially resisted bipartisan efforts to send lethal military assistance to Ukraine, and Congress has steadily appropriated more money for those programs than the Obama and Trump administrations requested.

But never before has the White House withheld the entire military allotment for Ukraine until the last days of the fiscal year, as Trump had done, nor has the president ever done so in such an opaque and un­or­tho­dox manner, according to House and Senate aides with knowledge of the process.

Article URL : https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/trumps-freeze-on-ukraine-aid-draws-new-scrutiny-amid-push-for-biden-investigation/2019/09/20/f22f0a98-dbd3-11e9-ac63-3016711543fe_story.html

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