- The Washington Times
Sunday, December 1, 2019

Republicans are citing new House testimony from a White House budgeteer to shoot down Democrats’ allegation that President Trump committed bribery in temporarily withholding Ukraine security aid.

Mark Sandy, a national security associate deputy director at the Office of Management and Budget, testified in closed-door session that he heard no reason for the July 18 presidential hold until September, which was around the time Mr. Trump released the aid.

The reason given to him by superiors: The White House first wanted data on which European countries were contributing to Kyiv, as it remains in trench warfare in the east against Russia-backed separatists.

“2 key facts from the recent depositions that support @realDonaldTrump’s position, but are being ignored,” tweeted Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican who was among those who questioned Mr. Sandy for 3½ hours on Nov. 16. “1) The hold on Ukrainian aid was released after OMB provided a EU contribution level report 2) In September, other officials confirmed this as a reason for the hold.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin, New York Republican, also questioned Mr. Sandy and cited his “definitive” explanation.

Mark Sandy is a dedicated, career public servant who came to Schiff’s Capitol basement bunker to answer under oath why there was a hold on US aid to Ukraine,” Mr. Zeldin tweeted. “He said the definitive answer from OMB was ENTIRELY about the President’s desire for other countries to contribute more.”

“Schiff” is Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He held two weeks of impeachment depositions in a secure basement hearing room.

Mr. Sandy said Mr. Trump’s hold on the aid began July 18, according to his released transcript. He said he was not told why.

“We had received requests for additional information on what other countries were contributing to Ukraine,” Mr. Sandy said. He said the data was provided to president’s staff in early September.

Afterward, he said, he received an email and then word from Robert B. Blair, a senior aide to White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, that the aid was held up due to a need for the data.

Mr. Trump released the aid on Sept. 11.

Mr. Mulvaney said at an October press conference that Mr. Trump held up aid over a concern about allies not ponying up comparable assistance for Ukraine. He also briefly mentioned the 2016 election, Mr. Mulvaney said.

Democrats argue that Mr. Trump blocked the flow of battlefield weapons and other gear as a bargaining chip to persuade Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do two things: cooperate with the Justice Department in its probe of how the 2016 FBI investigation into the Trump campaign began and investigate the roles of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine’s Burisma Holdings.

They say the foreign aid data explanation came after Mr. Trump learned that a CIA analyst had filed a whistleblower complaint against him. The nine-page complaint referred to a July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky during which 2016 and the Bidens were discussed.

The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump was briefed on the complaint in August.

After that time frame, Mr. Trump told Gordon Sondland, his European Union ambassador, by phone that he wanted no “quid pro quo” from Mr. Zelensky.

In an earlier call in July, Mr. Sondland, who was in a restaurant in Kyiv at the time, told the president that Mr. Zelensky had agreed to an investigation.

Republicans say there never was an investigation and that the aid was released on Sept. 11 in time to obligate all remaining $250 million before the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

Mr. Sandy said he promoted the aid package for three reasons: It was “supporting a stable, peaceful Europe. Second was the benefit from the program in terms of opposing Russian aggression. Another argument pertained to the bipartisan support for the program.”

He said he had never seen foreign military aid put on hold by OMB.

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.