/Democrats blast Trump budget office amid probe of Ukraine aid holdup

Democrats blast Trump budget office amid probe of Ukraine aid holdup

The summary says that the OMB’s “unlawful” actions “suggest a pattern of abuse” by the agency. “Although the committees only received a partial production of the requested materials, OMB’s responses and documentation to date confirm that the apportionment process has been misused to withhold Congressionally enacted appropriations,” Democrats said.

An OMB spokesperson dismissed the charge, saying in a statement that the agency “has and will continue to use its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law. This is the same old spin from Democrats.”

A timeline of OMB’s actions to withhold Ukraine aid from the Pentagon and the State Department has largely come to light amid depositions and hearings during Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, which is probing whether President Donald Trump leveraged the money to pressure the Eastern European country into investigating his political rivals.

But the chronology released Tuesday by the House Budget and Appropriations committees — which comes after Yarmuth (D-Ky.) and Lowey (D-N.Y.) demanded answers from OMB in September on the Ukraine aid freeze — still offers several points of interest. The House Budget Committee released only a summary of the documents provided by OMB, noting the agency failed to turn over the bulk of requested material.

The summary shows that OMB first inquired with the Pentagon about a $250 million pot of military assistance, known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, on June 19. But little is known about Trump‘s order on that date, in addition to what OMB was instructed to do. A career OMB official then halted the USAI funding on July 25. The money wasn’t made available again until Sept. 12.

Michael Duffey, an OMB political appointee, assumed control of the agency’s hold on State Department and Pentagon funding from a long-time career official on Aug. 3 and Aug. 6, respectfully. Duffey didn’t relinquish control until the end of the fiscal year.

House spending leaders said the decision to remove career staff from the apportionment process is “unprecedented” and “a troubling deviation from long-standing procedures.” OMB has previously asserted that there was nothing unusual or improper about shifting the responsibility into the hands of Duffey, and that the decision had nothing to do with the career staff concerns that the hold was not legal.

“Given Congress’ constant penchant to tell agencies they are not allowed to spend appropriated money and hold money for months on end, in scores of examples, we find it laughable that Congress is taking issue with the administration’s actions,” a senior administration official said on Tuesday.

While military assistance to Ukraine was freed up by Sept. 12, millions of dollars in State Department funding wasn’t released until Sept. 27 and Sept. 30, the summary provided by the House Budget Committee shows.

“Significant amounts” of State Department and military funding never reached Ukraine before the end of the fiscal year, Democrats noted. Ukraine is still waiting to receive at least $35 million in military assistance.

Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.

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