U.S. moved to freeze Ukraine aid 91 minutes after Trump phone call

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When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reached out to the Republican leadership last week about calling witnesses at Donald Trump's impeachment trial, the New York Democrat pointed to several individuals who could shed light on the White House's Ukraine extortion scheme.

Trump is accused of withholding US$400 million in assistance to Ukraine to push Kiev to investigate his political rival Joe Biden.

The mails underscore what some officials say was that the fundamental role the Office of Management and Budget performed carrying out Mr. Trump's Ukraine pressure effort, he orchestrated with the aid of his private attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The emails, published by the Center for Public Integrity, appear to show that Trump's staff acted shortly after his call with Volodymyr Zelenskiy to order the Pentagon to freeze military funding for Ukraine.

Following that conversation, senior OMB official and Trump political appointee Mike Duffey wrote to select OMB and Pentagon officials: "Based on guidance I have received and in light of the Administration's plan to review assistance to Ukraine, including the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, please hold off on any additional DoD obligations of these funds, pending direction from that process."

"Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute direction", the email reads. A temporary hold on the aid was then ordered on the evening of July 25 - after Duffey's email went out following the Zelensky call. "There was a call and the question about the conditionality of a visit to the White House and the granting of military aid".

"It's reckless to tie the hold of funds to the phone call".

Pelosi demands Trump impeachment trial info before sending charges
Wednesday's vote shifts the impeachment proceedings to the Senate, where a trial is expected in January. But no president has ever been removed from office as a direct result of impeachment.

Mr Schumer "made clear to Senator McConnell that the witnesses and documents are necessary to ensure a fair trial in the Senate", spokesman Justin Goodman said. "This email is explosive", Mr Schumer said.

The first line of Duffey's response has been redacted in the released emails.

The aid and the Trump-Zelinskyy call are at the heart of the impeachment case and Duffey is one of four witnesses top Democrat Chuck Schumer has proposed calling to give evidence.

Mike Duffey, a former Wisconsin GOP chair who Trump appointed to run the OMB's national security division, also indicated in the July 25 email that he wanted to hide the hold.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and US President Donald J. Trump (R) during a meeting on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in NY back in September. Michael Duffey, an official at the Office of Management and Budget, wrote to the Pentagon requesting more detail about the funding, according to an email from Duffey to the Pentagon comptroller.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, has postponed sending the impeachment charges to the Senate until the rules of the Senate trial are acceptable to her party.

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