WASHINGTON, DC – Following disclosure of a call in which President Donald Trump responded to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request for missiles with requests for investigation into his potential presidential election rival, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) urged bipartisan commitment to holding Trump to account.
“There must be a bipartisan commitment to getting at the truth of this matter. If Congress doesn’t stand up to President Trump’s self-dealing and hold him accountable, it will permanently change the nature and scope of presidential power. If this type of corruption goes unchallenged it will deal a lasting blow to our democracy,” Reed said.
Trump’s apparent interest in trading national security decisions for Ukraine’s assistance investigating political rivals is revealed after The Washington Post reported that Trump had ordered acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine, about a week before the call.
“It’s beyond troubling to read in black and white that the President of the United States is abusing his power and pressuring a foreign government to interfere in our democracy to aid his re-election bid. It’s doubly disturbing that President Trump traffics in baseless conspiracy theories while dangling the threat of withholding U.S. military aid to try and further his own personal, political agenda. It is unacceptable and has implications for our national security and the integrity of our democracy.”
Wednesday night, Reed joined U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in calling calling on the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to review DoD’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funding appropriated by Congress, according to Reed’s office.
The funding was halted for a significant portion of the year by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), allegedly at the direction of the White House, Reed’s office stated.
“The delay would appear to have hindered the Department’s statutory obligation to provide security assistance to Ukraine at a critical moment, and raises serious questions about whether DoD officials were involved in any scheme to target a political opponent,” the Senators wrote in a letter to DoD Acting Inspector General Glenn Fine. “As a result, it is imperative that your office pursue a thorough review of DoD’s potential role in these allegations, and provide your findings to the congressional defense committees in a timely manner.”
The Senators requested that Acting Inspector General Fine examine answers to the following questions:
- Why did the Department of Defense fail to execute funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative in a timely manner, consistent with the February and May notifications to Congress?
- Was the Department directed to slow or halt its work to spend the funds, and was the Department prohibited from communicating this to Congress? At whose direction?
- Was it the understanding of anyone in the Department that the request to halt Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds was connected to a political consideration by the President and his senior staff?
- Did anyone in the Department report any concerns related to this matter to your office, and if so, what was the substance of such reports?
- When was the Department told that OMB had released its hold, and was it told why the hold was released at that time?
On Sept. 12, Senator Durbin offered an amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee to the Fiscal Year 2020 Department of Defense Appropriations Act requiring the Trump Administration to spend the additional aid to Ukraine that Congress approved in that funding bill. As a result of this amendment, the White House released its hold on $250 million that Congress had appropriated in Fiscal Year 2019 to support Ukraine the night before the committee markup.
“There is a pattern of President Trump seeking to harness America’s diplomatic and law enforcement powers to advance his own personal, political, family, and business interests and priorities rather than what is best for America. You see it in Ukraine, Russia, the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere. It is harmful and alarming, and the abuse of power must stop,” Reed said.