Unredacted emails regarding the withheld congressionally-appropriated US military aid to Ukraine that prompted the impeachment of President Donald Trump show government officials were concerned about possible illegality of withholding the aid and that the president himself was standing in the way.
The unredacted emails, viewed by Just Security’s Kate Brannen, show administration officials made a concerted effort to hide those concerns expressed by members of the Department of Defense, the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget when the redacted versions of the emails were first released under court order in December.
Just Security, an online forum that specializes in analysis of US national security law and policy, published their findings on Thursday. Their assessment of the unredacted emails showed nothing to support the president’s expressed reasoning of holding back the aid—that he was concerned about corruption in Ukraine. Brannen wrote, “Although the pretext for the hold was that some sort of policy review was taking place, the emails make no mention of that actually happening.”
What the unredacted emails do show, however, is that despite legal concerns expressed by government officials, they firmly understood that the directive to withhold the aid came from the top.
In one unredacted email exchange, Michael Duffey, the associate director of national security Office of Management and Budget, and the Defense Department discussed the legality and the timing of military aid being withheld on August 30, with Duffey writing that there was “clear direction from POTUS to continue to hold.”
Top Democrats reacted to the report. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a tweet, “Trump engaged in unprecedented, total obstruction of Congress, hiding these emails, all other documents, and his top aides from the American people.” She also called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a fair impeachment trial in the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also released a statement via Twitter that read in part, “The newly-revealed unredacted emails are a devastating blow to Sen. McConnell’s push to have a trial without the documents and witnesses we’ve requested. These emails further expose the serious concerns raised by Trump administration officials about the propriety and legality of the president’s decision to cut off aid to Ukraine to benefit himself.”
And House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff released a statement while asking, “What else is Trump hiding?”
“These new documents highlight Trump’s direct role in withholding military aid, and the Administration’s efforts to hide it from Congress. We subpoenaed them, and they refused. Now we know why. A fair Senate trial requires all documents be produced,“ Schiff tweeted.