Trump impeachment scandal emails released, moments before midnight deadline

Peter Stubley
Donald Trump in Davos, Switzerland, as his impeachment trial gets underway in the US Senate: AP

The Trump administration has released a stash of heavily redacted documents about the withholding of military aid to Ukraine just two minutes before the deadline.

As the Senate continued to block attempts to subpoena official records for Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, 192 pages of emails were disclosed under a Freedom of Information request.

They include communications between budget officials on the day of the president’s phone call to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenksy to press for an investigation into his Democrat rival Joe Biden.

American Oversight, the non-profit organisation that requested the documents, said that some of the records have not been given to the US Congress for its impeachment investigation.

“President Trump’s lawyers stood in the Senate on Tuesday arguing that documents are totally unnecessary for the impeachment trial, but these documents give lie to that entire position,” said executive director Austin Evers.

“Despite the Trump Administration’s obstruction and the rhetoric at the trial, the public can now see even more evidence of the president’s corrupt scheme as it unfolded in real time.

“The volume of material released, and the volume of material still secreted away, only highlights how much the administration has withheld from the House, the Senate, and the American public.”

The documents were released in response to a request to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for “directives and communications that may relate to any effort to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate one of President Trump’s political opponents as part of an effort to give the president an electoral advantage”.

They begin with an email drawing attention to a news story about the Pentagon’s plans to send $250m in military aid to Ukraine on 19 June 2019.

Further documents reveal a series of communications involving OMB officials, including acting director Russell Voight and associate director Michael Duffey, as well as deputy under secretary of defence Elaine McCusker, who raised questions about the freeze of funding.

However the details of what was being discussed are almost entirely blacked out on the grounds that disclosing them “would inhibit the frank and candid exchange of views that is necessary for effective government decision making”.

The emails continue through July when the funds were withheld, according to evidence heard during the House impeachment inquiry, and the filing of the whistleblower’s complaint on 12 August about the Trump-Ukraine phone call three weeks earlier.

One of the few emails to survive redaction reveals Mr Duffey telling Ms McCusker: “We have no interest in delaying any action up until just before the obligation event occurs and want those processes to proceed.”

Later emails show a series of enquiries by members of congress and the media about the alleged withholding of military aid in the two weeks before the House launched its investigation on 9 September.

Last month internal emails revealed that the Trump administration ordered the Pentagon to freeze $391m (£300m) of military aid to Ukraine just 91 minutes after the 25 July phone call to the Ukrainian president.

Mr Trump, who has refused to cooperate with the impeachment hearings, has repeatedly denied that there was a “quid pro quo” – the allegation he withheld the military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden.

Read more

False claims from the start by Trump's impeachment team