The Democrats on Sunday seized on a newly-released email on military aid to push for more testimony in the impeachment of United States President Donald Trump, as the White House signalled it was comfortable with plans by Senate Republicans to avoid calling any new witnesses.
The mails underscore what some officials say was that the fundamental role the Office of Management and Budget performed carrying out Mr. Trump's Ukraine pressure effort, he orchestrated with the aid of his private attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani.
The fateful phone call is key to the abuse of power charge on which Mr Trump has been impeached.
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Just 91 minutes after the call ended, Mike Duffey wrote to officials at the OMB and the Pentagon, "Based on guidance I have received and in light of the Administration's plan to review assistance to Ukraine, including the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, please hold off on any additional [Department of Defense] obligations of these funds, pending direction from that process". "Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction", he wrote. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland made it clear that the provision concerning the new aid payment was a dealbreaker.
An OMB spokesperson sought to downplay the significance of the email over the weekend, insisting in a statement that it was "reckless to tie the hold of funds to the [Trump-Zelenksy] call". "As has been established and publicly reported, the hold was announced in an interagency meeting on July 18", CNN quoted her as saying.
"If there was ever an argument that we need Mr Duffey to come and testify, this is that information".
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"To pull a line out of one email and fail to address the context is misleading and inaccurate". "This email is explosive", he added at a news conference on Sunday.
The aid and the Trump-Zelinskyy call are at the heart of the impeachment case and Duffey is one of four witnesses top Democrat Chuck Schumer has proposed calling to give evidence. Released emails suggest that the President inquired about those $250 million the following day after an article in The Washington Examiner.
Sandy testified that two budget officials resigned in part due to frustration about the freeze, a sentiment that was shared within the Pentagon, according to the emails. "What more do you need to request a witness?", the New York Democrat continued. Maxine Waters warns that the Senate Trump will not remove Putin to the White House "Saagar Enjeti" to discuss the moderators: Don't waste time impeachment and tell the staff: "Putin told me". Mark Sandy, a career budget official who testified before the House Intelligence Committee during last month's impeachment hearings, told lawmakers he was concerned that withholding the aid Congress had approved could be a violation of the Impoundment Control Act.
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