Trump admin: Hold on Ukraine aid was discussed in advance of July phone call

“Explosive” new emails about the president’s hold on aid to Ukraine are anything but, says the Trump administration.

Democrats and the media have recently seized upon on a single email to claim that the hold began just 90 minutes after Trump’s famous July 25 phone call. But Trump’s hold on aid was discussed up to a week beforehand and was not connected with the phone call, senior officials said, according to Breitbart.

“As has been established and publicly reported, the hold was announced in an interagency meeting on July 18,” White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) spokeswoman Rachel Semmel said, according to NBC News. “To pull a line out of one email and fail to address the context is misleading and inaccurate.”

Not a smoking gun

As the media establishment has been telling it, the emails show a top White House official taking action to freeze aid to Ukraine within hours of Trump’s now-controversial phone call. This sensational framing of events is based on a single email in a heavily redacted batch of 146 messages obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, according to Axios.

The email shows top OMB official Mike Duffey asking the Pentagon to “please hold off” on aid and to keep the matter a secret on a “need to know” basis. As Democrats rapidly lose leverage to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the emails have provided a momentarily helpful — but probably inconsequential –  booster shot to flagging efforts by Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to extract more favorable terms for a Senate trial.

The emails, Democrats suggest, hint at a nefarious, top-down scheme by President Trump that requires further investigation, despite Democrats having already voted to impeach the president on the contention that he abused his power.

Trump administration officials argue that the media is spinning a singular email to distort the timing of the aid hold, which they say began at a July 18 meeting of which the media and others were already aware.

Journalists are “reckless to tie the hold of funds to the phone call,” said Semmel, while a senior administration official said that the email in question was part of a running dialogue between the OMB and the Pentagon.

Last-ditch effort

The “‘bombshell” comes as lawmakers return home for Christmas break, leaving impeachment in limbo amid a battle for leverage set off by Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) unusual decision to withhold articles of impeachment indefinitely. With Republicans promising to acquit Trump, Democrats are demanding a fair shake before they proceed — but Republicans, sensing that they have the high ground, have confidently dismissed the Democrats’ delays and demands as partisan, disingenuous, and doomed to fail.

Schumer has been given the unenviable task of wrangling with the immovable McConnell, who has made no secret of his feelings on what he views as a “political exercise.” In an apparent effort to gain momentum, Schumer called the emails “explosive” and used them to demand internal documents about efforts to pressure Ukraine, as well as to reiterate calls for testimony from Duffy, John Bolton, and others.

“If there was ever an argument that we need Mr Duffey to come and testify, this is that information. This email is explosive,” Schumer said. “A top administration official, one that we requested, is saying, stop the aid 90 minutes after Trump called Zelensky and said keep it hush, hush. What more do you need to request a witness?”

But Democrats have undermined their case by raising the prospect of additional articles of impeachment on Monday stemming from the Mueller probe, raising new questions about the scope or sincerity of their — for some strange reason, still ongoing — investigations. It seems that Schumer and his allies think they’re entitled to a never-ending fishing expedition covering everything from discredited Russian collusion to the latest Ukraine melodrama — but Republicans seem to be confident that Pelosi and Schumer will eventually have to give in.

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