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White House budget official is prepared to testify on frozen Ukraine aid

White House budget official is prepared to testify on frozen Ukraine aid

Mark Sandy, a senior White House budget official, is prepared to testify Saturday to House impeachment investigators about his knowledge of President Donald Trump’s decision to halt nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, his lawyer indicated Thursday.

Sandy’s lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder — who is also representing former National Security Council aide Tim Morrison — said Sandy intends to testify if he receives a subpoena from lawmakers, a step Democrats have repeatedly taken with other cooperative witnesses to sidestep orders from the White House to refuse to testify.

A series of witnesses have indicated Trump ordered a freeze on military aid in early July, just as he and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani were leaning on senior Ukrainian officials to announce investigations of Trump’s political rivals. The aid, which Ukraine depends upon to help fend off Russian military aggression in Crimea, was held until Sept. 11, despite unanimous approval from the State Department, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon, CIA and National Security Council that it should be distributed.

Several witnesses have testified that Ukrainians learned of the hold on military aid in the weeks following, but others said it was unclear if they had discovered it until POLITICO revealed the hold on Aug. 28. Soon after that, Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union and a close ally of the president, told top Ukrainian officials their aid likely wouldn’t be released unless they launched Trump’s politically motivated investigations.

Though top administration officials described high-level alarm at the lengthy hold on aid, one piece of the puzzle has remained: who did Trump and his chief of staff Mick Mulvaney communicate the order to inside the White House budget office, what justification did they provide and how was that order disseminated across the administration.

Sandy would become the first official at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to talk to impeachment investigators, a breakthrough that could shed light on how Trump’s effort to freeze aid to Ukraine was handled at the highest echelons of the administration. Sandy, according to investigators, signed a document on July 25 formalizing Trump’s freeze on military aid — though the move had been revealed internally a week earlier.

Pentagon official Laura Cooper testified Sandy’s letter indicated the freeze was meant to kickstart an "interagency process" to review the aid, even though the Pentagon and other agencies had already certified it was ready to be provided. Sandy’s letter also indicated the aid would be released on Aug. 5, even though it would ultimately take an additional five weeks.

Mulvaney has refused Democrats’ subpoena for testimony and at least three other OMB officials — Russ Vought, Michael Duffey and Brian McCormack — have also refused to appear.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

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