WASHINGTON - Democrats on Thursday seized on a new report citing unredacted e-mails that bolster the case that President Donald Trump was directly involved in withholding military aid to Ukraine as he was seeking investigations that could benefit his re-election bid.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., joined Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in pressing for key witnesses and documents to be included in a Senate impeachment trial of Trump after the report’s release.
Senate leaders remained at an impasse Thursday over the scope of a trial, and aides to Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the two men had not spoken over the holidays about the standoff. Pelosi has yet to send the articles of impeachment — alleging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — to the Senate as Democrats seek guarantees about witnesses and documents that would be subpoenaed regarding Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine.
The report by Kate Brannen, published by Just Security, referenced an e-mail from Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget, to Elaine McCusker, the acting Pentagon comptroller, on Aug. 30, a little more than a month after Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for investigations during a phone call.
In the e-mail, which followed a meeting with Trump that included senior administration officials, Duffey told McCusker, “Clear direction from POTUS to hold.”
A redacted version of that e-mail — and several others cited in the report by Brannen, a veteran Pentagon reporter — had previously been made public as the result of Freedom of Information Act litigation.
“The newly-revealed unredacted e-mails are a devastating blow to Senator McConnell’s push to have a trial without the documents and witnesses we’ve requested,” Schumer said in a statement Thursday. “These e-mails further expose the serious concerns raised by Trump administration officials about the propriety and legality of the president’s decision to cut off aid to Ukraine to benefit himself.”
Schumer has sought guarantees from McConnell that several administration officials will be subpoenaed to testify in a Senate trial who declined to participate in House impeachment proceedings, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton and Duffey. McConnell has said the Senate should decide on what if any witnesses to call after hearing opening statements from House impeachment managers and Trump’s lawyers.
Schumer said the unredacted e-mails raise “questions that can only be answered by having the key Trump administration officials … testify under oath in a Senate trial.”
“The American people deserve a fair trial that gets to the truth, not a rigged process that enables a coverup,” Schumer said.
At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and $391 million in congressionally appropriated military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Zelensky to launch an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 presidential candidate, and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kiev conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
In a tweet, Pelosi said, “Trump engaged in unprecedented, total obstruction of Congress, hiding these e-mails, all other documents, and his top aides from the American people. His excuse was a phony complaint about the House process. What’s the excuse now? Why won’t Trump & McConnell allow a fair trial?”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement that the messages show that the White House “cannot argue that the aid was held for any reason other than to pressure Ukraine into helping the President’s re-election efforts.”