Democrats demand answers on suspension of aid to Ukraine

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats controlling the House demanded answers Friday from the Trump White House about its moves ordering the Pentagon and the State department to withhold almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine.

The chairs of the House Appropriations and Budget committees made the request in a letter to Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and budget director Russell Vought. Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., want information about when the White House issued the decision to withhold the aid and the policy reasons — if any — for the move.

The question is part of the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump.

An anonymous whistleblower has accused the president of withholding the aid to improperly pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate allegations that Trump hoped could have been politically damaging for former Vice President Joe Biden.

Yarmuth and Lowey wrote that they have “serious concerns that recent apportionment actions by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to withhold military aid for Ukraine and other foreign assistance constitute unlawful impoundments” and “are an abuse of the authority provided to the President” to distribute funds appropriated by Congress.

The pair wants to know exactly when the White House instructed agencies to hold back the Ukrainian aid and whether there was in fact an “interagency process” involved in the decision. The whistleblower said that Trump in July had issued an order to suspend the delivery of $250 million in Pentagon aid and $141 million in State Department funds but that the White House had not given an explanation.

The letter requests that the White House voluntarily turn over the information, but Mulvaney and Vought have an often acrimonious relationship with the two committees, especially the powerful Appropriations panel, which keeps a close eye on agency spending.

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