US moved to freeze Ukraine aid 90 minutes after Donald Trump phone call

Updated: Dec 24, 2019, 08:21 IST | Agencies | Washington

The email is time - stamped 11:04 am - an hour and 31 minutes after Trump's controversial July 25 phone call with Zelensky ended

US President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a meeting in New York on September 25. Pic/AFP
US President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a meeting in New York on September 25. Pic/AFP

Washington: A US budget official told the Pentagon to "hold off" on military aid to Kyiv, 90 minutes after a controversial phone call between President Donald Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, according to an internal email.

The email was part of a series published by the investigative non-profit Center for Public Integrity. Trump is accused of withholding $400 million in assistance to Ukraine to push Kyiv to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden.

"Based on guidance I have received and in light of the administration's plan to review assistance to Ukraine... please hold off on any additional DoD obligations of these funds," Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffy wrote in an email to Pentagon officials.

The email time — stamped 11:04 am — an hour and 31 minutes after Trump's controversial July 25 phone call with Zelensky ended, according to a summary of the conversation released by the White House."Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know," Duffey added.

Republicans defended the move in a December 2 House of Representatives staff report, saying it was "not unusual" for foreign aid to be delayed, the Center for Public Integrity noted. Republican Senator Ron Johnson said that the "new emails don't shed any new light" on Trump's rationale for withholding aid to Ukraine.

"The president was concerned about whether or not America's hard-earned taxpayer dollars should be spent into a country where there have been proven cases of corruption," he said. Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer meanwhile called the emails "explosive" in a tweet, denouncing Trump's refusal to let certain White House officials testify.

$400mn
Amount Trump is accused of withholding

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