POLITICS

Judge Orders Pentagon, White House Budget Office To Release Records On Ukraine Aid

The federal judge issued a preliminary injunction ordering them to comply with a records request relating to the president's freeze on military aid to Ukraine.

A federal judge on Monday ordered the Pentagon and the White House Office of Management and Budget to release documents related to the delay in military aid to Ukraine.

Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a U.S. district judge for Washington, D.C., issued a preliminary injunction ordering the two agencies to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for records relating to the Trump administration’s freeze on Ukraine aid, which is at the center of the House’s impeachment investigation into the president.

The judge ordered the agencies to release half of the 211 pages of documents by Dec. 12 and the rest by Dec. 20. The records include communications between the Defense Department, the department’s comptroller and the OMB regarding the Pentagon’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI). The request for the records came from the Center for Public Integrity.

Trump froze nearly $400 million of congressionally approved military aid over the summer and lifted the freeze on most of the aid only after a whistleblower from the intelligence community filed a complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry. The anonymous whistleblower, as well as several witnesses who have testified publicly and privately to Congress, have alleged that Trump withheld the aid in order to pressure Ukraine to investigate a Democratic political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter.

“Currently, the United States House of Representatives is in the process of conducting impeachment proceedings concerning the same subject matter as the documents requested by Plaintiff,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her order. “As such, the requested documents are sought in order to inform the public on a matter of extreme national concern. Only an informed electorate can develop its opinions and persuasively petition its elected officials to act in ways which further the aims of those opinions.”

Republicans throughout the impeachment investigation have argued that Trump and his allies could not have engaged in an attempted quid pro quo with Ukraine because the country was not aware of the frozen military aid until after Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which the two discussed Zelensky launching an investigation of the Bidens. But public testimony last week from Pentagon official Laura Cooper revealed that Ukrainian Embassy staffers were aware at the time of the phone call that U.S. military aid was being held up for some reason.

The House subpoenaed documents in October from the Pentagon and the OMB in the impeachment investigation, though the agency heads joined the rest of Trump’s allies in refusing to comply with the orders.

Currently, $35 million in congressionally approved aid to Ukraine has still not been delivered, according to the Los Angeles Times. The money was reportedly earmarked for grenade launchers, secure communications and naval combat craft, but it has not left the U.S. treasury.

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