Emails show Pentagon Official’s concerns over Ukraine Aid Freeze.

WASH­ING­TON—A se­nior Pen­tagon of­fi­cial clashed with the White House over its de­ci­sion to freeze se­cu­rity aid to Ukraine, re­peat­edly warn-ing that the hold could com­pli­cate the ad­min­is­tra-tion's abil­ity to dis­tribute the money be­fore a con­gres­sion-ally man­dated dead­line, ac­cord­ing to unredacted emails ob­tained by an out­side group.

Be­gin­ning in July, Elaine Mc­Cusker, the act­ing Pen-tagon comp­troller, sent of­fi­cials at the White House Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get emails in which she raised con­cerns about the le­gal­ity of the hold on nearly $400 mil­lion in aid. Though Pen­tagon of­fi­cials' frus­tra-tions were pre­vi­ously known, the emails, ear­lier ver­sions of which had been redacted by the Jus­tice De­part­ment, of­fer a new level of de­tail about Ms. Mc­Cusker's con­cerns.

Ms. Mc­Cusker's most dire pre­dic­tions didn't come true—at one point she warned that $120 mil­lion or more of the aid was at risk of not be­ing spent. But af­ter the White House lifted its hold on Sept. 11, more than $35 mil­lion in aid didn't make it to Ukraine by the time the fis­cal year ended at the end of that month.

The de­ci­sion to freeze the aid to Ukraine was at the cen­ter of the House's in­ves­ti-ga­tion of Pres­i­dent Trump, which re­sulted in his im­peach-ment last month. The Sen­ate is now ex­pected to hold a trial, and De­moc­rats are push­ing for tes­ti­mony from ad­min­is­tra-tion of­fi­cials in an ef­fort to de­ter­mine whether the de­ci­sion to pause the aid was di­rectly con­nected to Mr. Trump's de­sire for Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­sky to open in­ves­ti­ga­tions that could ben­e­fit the pres­i­dent in the 2020 U.S. elec­tion. Mr. Trump has said he didn't make the aid con­tin­gent on the in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

A heav­ily redacted ver­sion of some doc­u­ments re­lated to the aid was ob­tained and re­leased last month by the Cen­ter for Pub­lic In­tegrity through a pub­lic in­for­ma­tion re­quest. Just Se­cu­rity, a group that pub­lishes na­tional se­cu­rity re­search and jour­nal­ism, re­viewed and pub­lished por­tions of the unredacted emails on Thurs­day. An ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial con­firmed to The Wall Street Jour­nal that the emails are au­then­tic.

The De­fense De­part­ment didn't re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. Ms. Mc­Cusker couldn't im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment.

Sen­ate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) called the emails "a dev­as­tat­ing blow to Sen­a­tor Mc­Connell's push to have a trial with­out the doc­u­ments and wit­nesses we've re­quested."

A spokesman for Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­Connell (R., Ky.) re­ferred to com­ments the law­maker made on the Sen­ate floor last month. He said at the time that he wanted to put off any con­tentious res­o­lu­tions—such as those call­ing wit­nesses—un­til a later phase of the trial.

The new emails re­flect deep ten­sion be­tween Ms. Mc­Cusker and OMB. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Ms. Mc­Cusker and OMB slowly de­te­ri­o­rated, as se­nior of­fi­cials at the of­fice grew skep­ti­cal of her es­ti­mates of how much money was at risk of not be­ing spent, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with their in­ter­ac­tions.

In re­sponse to the emails, OMB coun­tered that Ms. Mc­Cusker's frus­tra­tions didn't re­flect what they were hear­ing from other Pen­tagon of­fi­cials.

"There was agree­ment every step of the way be­tween DOD and OMB lawyers, who were re­spon­si­ble for work­ing out the de­tails of the hold, in line with the Pres­i­dent's pri­or­i­ties," OMB spokes-woman Rachel Sem­mel said in a state­ment.

In her emails to OMB, Ms. Mc­Cusker raised con­cerns that the White House was vi­o­lat­ing the Im­pound­ment Con­trol Act, which re­quires that the ex­ec­u­tive branch spend money that has been ap­pro­pri­ated by Con­gress.

Af­ter the ad­min­is­tra­tion im­posed its hold on the aid in July and later ex­tended it, Ms. Mc­Cusker ob­jected to lan-guage in­cluded in a bud­get doc­u­ment by OMB that said the pause wouldn't pre­vent the De­fense De­part­ment from spend­ing the money.

"We hope it won't and will do all we can to ex­e­cute once the pol­icy de­ci­sion is made, but can no longer make that de­clar­a­tive state­ment," she wrote in an Aug. 6 email to OMB of­fi­cials.

Ms. Mc­Cusker also dis-agreed with talk­ing points dis­tributed by OMB af­ter Politico first re­ported in late Au­gust that the aid had been put on hold. "No ac­tion has been taken by OMB that would pre­clude the oblig­a­tion of these funds be­fore the end of the fis­cal year," the talk­ing points said. The talk­ing points as­serted that the hold didn't pre­clude the money from be­ing spent be­fore the end of the fis­cal year.

In re­sponse, Ms. Mc­Cusker wrote that the talk­ing point about the aid was "not ac­cu­rate from a fi­nan­cial ex­e­cu­tion stand­point, some-thing we have been con­sis-tently con­vey­ing for a few weeks." A se­nior ad­min­is­tra-tion of­fi­cial said lawyers in the Pen­tagon's Of­fice of the Gen­eral Coun­sel re­viewed, edited and signed off on the talk­ing points, an as­ser­tion sup­ported by a doc­u­ment re­viewed by the Jour­nal.

Ms. Mc­Cusker's frus­tra-tions es­ca­lated in early Sep­tember. Af­ter she warned OMB that $120 mil­lion might not be able to be spent by the end of the fis­cal year be­cause of the hold, Michael Duf­fey, as­sociate di­rec­tor of na­tional se­cu­rity pro­grams at OMB, re­sponded with a let­ter that put the blame on the De­fense De­part­ment for not do­ing enough to pre­pare to spend the funds if they were re-leased.

Ms. Mc­Cusker replied, in an ex­change first re­ported by the New York Times, "You can't be se­ri­ous. I am speech-less."

Andrew Restuccia, WSJ, January 2, 2020


January 4, 2020

Voices4America Post Script.With so much happening,including potential war caused by Trump's ineptitude plus serious #GOPWarAgainstWomen attack on Roe v Wade, it is hard to remember Trump abused our Constitution. #RememberImpeachRemove.

Here is more proof when we must #RemoveTrumpNow

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