Aha!

Courtesy of NYT:

President Trump had already been briefed on a whistle-blower’s complaint about his dealings with Ukraine when he unfroze military aid for the country in September, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Lawyers from the White House counsel’s office told Mr. Trump in late August about the complaint, explaining that they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to Congress, the people said.

The revelation could shed light on Mr. Trump’s thinking at two critical points under scrutiny by impeachment investigators: his decision in early September to release $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine and his denial to a key ambassador around the same time that there was a “quid pro quo” with Kyiv. Mr. Trump used the phrase before it had entered the public lexicon in the Ukraine affair.

Mr. Trump faced bipartisan pressure from Congress when he released the aid. But the new timing detail shows that he was also aware at the time that the whistle-blower had accused him of wrongdoing in withholding the aid and in his broader campaign to pressure Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to conduct investigations that could benefit Mr. Trump’s re-election chances.

In other words Trump did not release this aid because it was the right thing to do, or because the Ukraine government proved it was moving forward on corruption, instead it was released because Trump was about to be exposed. 

And he was exposed, and that exposure has now lead to these impeachment hearings. 

We also learned that the decision to withhold this money from Ukraine caused at least two officials to resign.

Courtesy of WaPo:

Two officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget recently resigned in part over concerns about the holdup on Ukraine aid, a career employee of the agency told impeachment investigators, according to a transcript of his testimony released Tuesday.

Mark Sandy, the only OMB official to testify in the impeachment inquiry, did not name the employees in question. He said one worked in the OMB legal division and described that person as having a “dissenting opinion” about how the security assistance to Ukraine could be held up in light of the Impoundment Control Act, which limits the ability of the executive branch to change spending decisions made by Congress.

Sandy, the agency’s deputy associate director for national security programs, testified on Nov. 16, and his remarks revealed some of the White House’s internal maneuverings relating to blocking the aid. Other White House officials, including Sandy’s superiors at the budget office who are political appointees, have defied congressional subpoenas to participate in the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

Sandy was asked specifically about whether the official who worked in the OMB’s legal office quit “at least in part because of their concerns or frustrations about the hold on Ukraine security assistance.” Sandy replied, “Yes, in terms of that process, in part.”

He said the other official, who resigned in September, “expressed some frustrations about not understanding the reason for the hold.”

It appears that at least these two individuals recognized that withholding aid specifically earmarked for Ukraine’s defense against Russia by Congress was wrong. 

And it seems that Trump might finally be recognizing that the decision holds political peril for him as well. 

Perhaps that is why he is throwing Rudy Giuliani under the bus.

Courtesy of The Daily Beast

Asked point-blank if Giuliani was acting on his behalf in trying to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden—an issue now at the heart of an impeachment inquiry—Trump said, “No, I didn’t direct him, but he is a warrior, he is a warrior.”

When asked what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, Trump deflected and told the ex-Fox anchor that he would “have to ask that to Rudy.”

“I know that he was going to go to Ukraine and I think he cancelled the trip. But Rudy has other clients, other than me. He’s done a lot of work in Ukraine over the years,” the president continued.

You might remember that Trump used a similar tactic when suggesting that his other personal attorney Michael Cohen was the one behind the payoffs to Stormy Daniels and that he knew nothing about it. 

Of course this time there is quite a lot of testimony where Trump told people to talk to Rudy, and at least one recording of him directing the president of Ukraine to do the same. 

It is a weak and desperate defense, but at this point it may be all that Trump has left.