CREW requested records from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Acting White House Chief of Staff and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney’s October 17, 2019 admission of withholding of military aid from Ukraine unless their government cooperated in an investigation desired by President Trump.
At least a week before his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, President Trump reportedly ordered Mulvaney to put a hold on security assistance funds for Ukraine. OMB informed Defense and State Department officials of this decision on July 18, 2019. No clear explanation for the hold was provided. CREW previously requested documents from these departments on the money hold.
During a press conference on October 17, 2019, Mulvaney acknowledged the hold on releasing aid to Ukraine was connected to White House demands that Ukraine investigate issues relating to the 2016 election: “Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely, no question about that. But that’s it. And that’s why we held up the money,” Mulvaney said. “I was involved with the process by which the money was held up temporarily, okay? Three issues for that: the corruption of the country; whether or not other countries were participating in support of Ukraine; and whether or not they were cooperating in an ongoing investigation with our Department of Justice.”
The DOJ contradicted Mulvaney’s statements to reporters and Mulvaney himself walked back his comments. He claimed, “there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server. The only reasons we were holding the money was because of concern about lack of support from other nations and concerns over corruption.”
The requested records would help clarify Mulvaney’s assertion, which has been contradicted by Justice Department officials, subsequently walked back, and is a source of public confusion. The requested records would also shed light more generally on the reasoning behind the multi-month freeze on military aid to Ukraine. The records would provide insight on the sequence of events surrounding the hold on the aid to Ukraine and how it relates to President Trump’s July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine, and reveal important information about the functioning and decisions of OMB.