Pentagon warned withholding Ukraine aid was illegal but Trump did it anyway


Pentagon officials also told the White House that Trump's decision could permanently block the funds from ever getting to Ukraine.

The Pentagon issued dire warnings to the White House that Donald Trump's decision to withhold security aid to Ukraine put the Defense Department at risk of breaking the law, but their warnings were ignored, according to a report on Wednesday from Just Security.

According to the report, the Pentagon continually warned the White House that the $400 million in security aid to Ukraine had to be spent before the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30. And if that money wasn't spent by the end of the year, the Pentagon would be in violation of the Impoundment Control Act, which seeks to ensure that the executive branch spends money in the way that Congress appropriated it.

Officials also warned that the money, if left unspent, would be returned to the U.S. Treasury and would "never make its way to Ukraine."

"[T]he Pentagon was also clear that providing Ukraine the security assistance was in the national security interests of the United States, on that point Trump’s Cabinet agreed," the report noted.

Yet Trump continued to ignore those warnings, instead choosing to sit on the aid to force Ukraine to investigate his 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

It wasn't until a Politico report at the end of August that launched a House investigation into why the aid was being withheld that Trump was ultimately forced to release the aid on Sept. 11, days before the end of the fiscal year deadline.

That left the Pentagon with no time to spend the funds.

In the end, the report noted, the Defense Department and congressional appropriators were able to work together to create "last-minute legislation that could be added to" a seven-week Continuing Resolution being drafted at the time to stave off another government shutdown.

According to Just Security, the CR "would extend the deadline the Pentagon would have to spend the Ukraine money and prevent it from running afoul of the law." The added language "essentially rescinded the money the Pentagon was unable to spend and then reobligated it, putting time back on the clock for the Pentagon to supply Ukraine with what it needed."

Trump's decision to withhold military aid to force Ukraine to investigate Biden is now at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry into his actions with regard to Ukraine.

So far, multiple witnesses have confirmed the bombshells laid out in an initial whistleblower complaint that led to the inquiry in the first place.

That whistleblower complaint, released earlier this year, outlined concerns over Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which he pressured Zelensky to investigate Biden and a long-debunked conspiracy about the DNC servers. It alleged that the White House had tried to hide a partial memo of that call in a top secret codeword system to which few had access.

Administration officials — including top Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated military official and the National Security Council's foremost Ukraine expert — confirmed in recent days that Trump had indeed demanded a quid pro quo from Ukraine, endangering national security in the process.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney also admitted to the quid pro quo arrangement in a press conference earlier in October, though he later attempted to walk back those comments.

The impeachment inquiry will soon enter a public phase during which witnesses will testify openly to Trump's conduct and that of his associates.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.