The timeline in the administration's Ukraine scandal changed again on Saturday with a bombshell new report from Bloomberg News.
"President Donald Trump says he lifted his freeze on aid to Ukraine on Sept. 11, but the State Department had quietly authorized releasing $141 million of the money several days earlier," Bloomberg reported, citing "five people familiar with the matter."
"The State Department decision, which hasn’t been reported previously, stemmed from a legal finding made earlier in the year, and conveyed in a classified memorandum to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. State Department lawyers found the White House Office of Management and Budget, and thus the president, had no legal standing to block spending of the Ukraine aid," Bloomberg explained.
The report highlights how the administration was divided over the funding, with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney -- who is also the director of the Office of Management and budget supporting Trump's decision to block the aid, while others, including then-National Security Advisor John Bolton, reportedly wanted the funds released.
"The OMB has argued all along that the congressional notification by the State Department was only one step and it still had the power to hold the money after it was sent because of its authority to apportion -- or distribute -- the funds," Bloomberg explained. "But the State Department disagreed. Taylor, the envoy to Ukraine, said in his testimony that it was remarkable that the legal offices at the State and Defense departments had decided 'they were going to move forward with this assistance anyway, OMB notwithstanding.'”
"The memo to Pompeo had determined that State had the authority to spend the money -- regardless of what Trump was saying through the OMB -- and would start the process by Sept. 7. But State officials were also wary of provoking a confrontation with OMB and Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff who still leads the budget office, whose team argued they could block the money through a process known as apportionment," Bloomberg reported.
The new report suggests that Bolton went around Mulvaney to release the aid.
"What they didn’t know, according to one of the people, was that shortly before Sept. 9, Bolton had relayed a message to the State Department that the funding could go ahead. It’s not clear whether Bolton, who resigned from the job a week later, did so with Trump’s approval," Bloomberg noted.
Read the full report.