Two White House officials resigned over Ukraine aid hold, official says

Two officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget resigned over Ukraine aid.
Two officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget resigned over Ukraine aid. AP/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Two officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget recently resigned while voicing concerns over 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 already made by Congress.


The other person, who resigned in September, ‘‘expressed some frustrations about not understanding the reason for the hold,’’ Sandy said.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Tuesday night that 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 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 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. Trump used the phrase before it had entered the public lexicon in the Ukraine affair.

Sandy, the Office of Management and Budget’s deputy associate director for national security programs, testified on Nov. 16, becoming the first OMB official to do so after political appointees at the agency defied congressional subpoenas to participate in the House impeachment inquiry.


The release of Sandy’s testimony came as House Democrats on Tuesday took steps forward in their impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s actions, with the judiciary panel scheduling its first hearing and the budget panel releasing a report alleging that the White House broke the law by withholding money from Ukraine.

The moves show the impeachment process quickly advancing beyond the hearings held by the House Intelligence Committee this month to proceedings that could lead to a formal vote on impeachment.

The House Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Dec. 4 is a crucial next step in the process because that panel has the power to draft the articles of impeachment against Trump.

House Democrats launched their impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions in July, alleging that he withheld security funding for Ukraine and a White House meeting for that country’s president until the new leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, agreed to announce investigations into Trump’s US political opponents.

Current and former government officials have testified that they were alarmed about the White House’s decision to withhold the money, with some saying they feared that Trump was trying to pressure the Ukrainian government for his own political gain. Trump has denied wrongdoing and decried the investigation.

In announcing the Dec. 4 hearing, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, sent a letter to Trump and asked whether he or his lawyer planned to question witnesses.


‘‘We expect to discuss the constitutional framework through which the House may analyze the evidence gathered in the present inquiry,’’ Nadler wrote. ‘‘We will also discuss whether your alleged actions warrant the House’s exercising its authority to adopt articles of impeachment.’’

Nadler asked Trump to notify the committee by Dec. 1 if he planned to participate in any way. Last week, Trump said he would consider responding to written questions as part of the inquiry, but he has not mentioned the idea since.

Trump on Tuesday gave mixed signals about whether the White House might participate in the process. In Twitter posts, he wrote, ‘‘I would actually like people to testify,’’ but he suggested he wasn’t allowing his top current and former aides to testify because it would set a dangerous precedent for future presidents.