FOIA Warriors Kick Trump's Bullsh*t Ukraine Explanations In The D*ck
A full ninety-one minutes after Donald Trump hung up from his "perfect, perfect" shakedown phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, one of Trump's lackeys from the Office of Management and Budget hopped on his Obamaphone to tell the Defense Department not to send any money to Ukraine. Heckuva coincidence, huh? Mike Duffey, as the lackey is known, emailed Deputy DOD Secretary David Norquist to tell him the congressionally allocated $391 million -- $141 million of which was in DOD's piggybank -- was on "pause" for "reasons," and "Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute direction."
If there really were a legitimate reason for the pause, if Trump were seriously concerned about Ukrainian corruption, they wouldn't be desperately trying to keep it a secret. Trump would have gone on Hannity to scream about the "smocking gun" instead of barfing out nonsense about Crowdstrike to a foreign leader and then locking the READ THE TD@J7**KT in the bin Laden server where no one could see it.
Everyone in the White House knew what went down on the morning on July 25 when Trump tried to extort Zelenskyy for dirt on Joe Biden, which is exactly why two members of the National Security Council Staff, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Tim Morrison, both hotfooted it to NSC lawyer John Eisenberg's office that same day. And clearly Duffey knew it, since he swore the DOD to secrecy about the hold just an hour and a half after Trump dropped the make up-smeared receiver back into the cradle. They all knew.
Indeed, it's only natural that the White House would want to keep the Ukrainian "pause" on the down-low, since it pretty clearly violates the Impoundment Control Act, which requires the president to promptly inform Congress if he defers spending. The Constitution grants Congress the spending power, although there are contingencies when the president can hold funds if he explains himself to Congress. But Rudy Giuliani derping nonsense about the DNC server being buried in Ukraine isn't one of those contingencies, which is why Duffey et al. were desperate to keep it under their hats in hopes that someone could distract the Old Fool in the Oval long enough for them to get the money out.
Consistent with the White House policy to pitch a tantrum and shout YOU AIN'T MY DADDY, none of the emails documenting the hold on the $391 million of Ukraine spending were provided to the House impeachment inquiry. The Center for Public Integrity, which deserves a little something in their stocking, managed to shake the documents loose with a FOIA lawsuit, because the administration that touts itself as the most transparent in history has to be dragged into court to tell the American people just what it's up to.
In 146 highly redacted pages, we see the increasingly desperate beancounters at the Defense Department trying to work out why on earth Donald Trump had signed two separate defense spending bills for Ukraine, in September 2018 and February 2019, if he had such grave reservations about the country. Duffey gamely tried to bury it in impenetrable legalese:
Amounts apportioned, but not yet obligated as of the date of this reapportionment, for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (Initiative) are not available for obligation until August 12th, 2019, to allow for an interagency process to determine the best use of such funds. Based on OMB's communication with DOD on August 5th, 2019, OMB understands from the Department that this brief pause in obligations will not preclude DOD's timely execution of the final policy direction. DOD may continue its planning and casework for the Initiative during this period.
Which roughly translates to, "We fobbed Legal off by calling it a 'pause,' and we're going balls to the wall to get that money out the door by September 15 to meet the September 30 fiscal year deadline. So have the cash in an envelope by the front door ready to go out on ten seconds notice, and cross your fingers that we can keep Rudy away long enough that his demented client lets us get this money out before shit really hits the fan." More or less.
The government has also made liberal use of its black redaction Sharpie, blocking out most of the substantive details under a dubious claim of executive privilege over the deliberative process. Public Integrity is suing to get some of those redactions unblocked, particularly those pertaining to purely factual, non-deliberative matters. For example, this is pretty clearly a fact-based assessment of why Ukraine needs the money and what will happen if they don't get it by the end of the fiscal year, i.e. the allocation will expire and shit will hit the fan when Congress finds out that they all conspired to violate the Impoundment Control Act.
But the government is trying to throw a blanket of privilege over these basic facts, labeling them as "(b)(5)", deliberative process materials. And not for nothing, but this email went out to a dozen people, across the White House, Department of Defense, OMB, and the Army, so it wasn't exactly a secret.
In its defense, OMB spokeswoman Rachel Semmel huffs to ABC that the hold was actually discussed on July 18 after Trump saw an article in the Washington Examiner about money for Ukraine and flipped his shit.
"To pull a line out of one email and fail to address the context is misleading and inaccurate," she complained. As if the fact that the nation's foreign policy can be derailed by Donald Trump discovering the details of legislation he signed months before in a conservative rag is somehow exculpatory. Semmel insists that it was just a crazy coincidence that the White House was freaking out over Trump's phone call at the very moment OMB decided it needed to lock that money down RIGHT FUCKIN' NOW. If that were true they'd be delighted to stick it to Democrats by testifying to prove Donald Trump's holy innocence.
But they aren't. They did everything they could to keep that information locked down over the summer. They refused to testify. They only responded to a FOIA under court order. And when they had to produce the record, they dumped a vat of black ink over it to hide their own guilt.
THAT DOG WON'T HUNT.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.