White House: Ukraine Shakedown Was Just 'Policy Process,' Totally Normal, Everything You Learned In HS Civics Class
In its continuing effort to prove that Donald Trump didn't shake down the president of Ukraine by withholding congressionally appropriated defense funds to extort him to smear Joe Biden, the Office of Management and Budget has produced yet another post hoc memo 'splaining that the hold on the money was totally normal and appropriate. Nothing to see here, move along folks! At least three media outlets -- the Washington Post, Roll Call, and the Washington Examiner -- have copies of the memo. And yet not a single one of them has been allowed publish the memo in its entirety. Which is a pretty good indication that OMB isn't entirely confident in the persuasiveness of its legal reasoning.
In a word, this memo is horseshit.
The Post reports that Donald Trump only learned of the aid to Ukraine from a June 19 article in the Washington Examiner on the importance of US military assistance to Ukraine's war to repel the Russian invasion in Crimea. At which point, President Russophile lost his shit at the prospect of the US doing anything to piss off his pal Putin. A fact the GOP conveniently forgets when they brag that Trump provided Ukraine with Javelin missiles eventually.
The Examiner quoted US special representative Kurt Volker describing the military assistance as "vitally important," but Trump AHEM "questioned the wisdom of the spending." By which we read, flipped his shit and asked why the US was giving money to people who "tried to take me down in 2016," particularly when it makes Vladimir Putin GRRR SO MAD.
And instead of playing him a Schoolhouse Rock video on Congress's power of the purse, or explaining that it's in America's national interest to support Ukraine's fight against Russia, his staff scrambled to lock down the money until the Mad King calmed down. The hold was renewed eight more times and only lifted on September 11, four days before the effective cancellation date of September 15, after which it could not be spent during this fiscal year. During that time, two staffers are alleged to have quit in protest at what they viewed as illegal usurpation of Congress's spending power.
Enter OMB's general counsel Mark Paoletta to gin up a post facto justification in legalese so dense that you have get your nose right up to the page to smell the bullshit. Luckily, Paoletta cut his teeth smearing women who wanted to testify against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and manning the Sarah Palin Truth Squad for the McCain campaign, so he's up to the challenge.
Here's an excerpt from Paoletta's memo from Roll Call:
In fact, OMB regularly uses this apportionment authority to temporarily pause agency obligations to obtain additional information needed to determine the best possible use of the funds consistent with the law. Most commonly, OMB executes this action by placing a footnote on the apportionment that suspends obligations for a period pending receipt from an agency of a 'spend plan' from an agency, or pending a policy determination, including an interagency process, on the most efficient and effective use of the funds consistent with the law.
UH HUH. Paoletta seems to be arguing that the "programmatic delay" was a routine part of the "interagency process" that involved a "policy determination" arising out of the president's "obligations to obtain additional information." Except there was no policy process. There was only the Three Amigos ratcheting up the pressure on the Zelenskyy administration to put their leader on camera announcing an investigation of the Bidens. We all READ THE TD2C558P33!@T of the July 27 phone call!
So Paoletta can try to bury the story under a pile of bureaucratic palaver about wise men putting their heads together to be wise stewards of American tax dollars, but he can't create an alternate version of history where that policy process actually took place. The funds weren't released, even after the Defense Department conducted a secondary review. The White House only released the funds after the whistleblower complaint landed in Congress and Mitch McConnell told the White House to release the funds right fucking now. That's why there's no description of policy meetings in his letter -- which we still haven't seen, of course -- and no one from OMB or the White House has been allowed to testify.
As the kids would say, PICS OR DIDN'T HAPPEN.
Spoiler Alert: It didn't happen.
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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.