Representative Jason Crow

Representing the 6th District of Colorado

Rep. Jason Crow’s Statement During Debate on McConnell Trial Rules

January 21, 2020
Press Release

“So when we talk about troops not getting the equipment they need when they need it, it’s personal to me”

“Eventually, this will all come out. We will have answers to these questions. The question now is whether we will have them in time, and who here will be on the right side of history”

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Jason Crow (CO-06), a House Manager in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump, delivered the following statement in support of the amendment to subpoena the Office of Management and Budget documents.  

The remarks, as delivered, are below:

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Mr. Chief Justice, Senators, counsel for the President, and the American people:

I am Jason Crow from the great state of Colorado. The House Managers strongly support this amendment to subpoena key documents from the Office of Management and Budget or “OMB.” 

These documents go directly to one of President Trump’s abuses of power:  His decision to withhold vital military aid from a strategic partner that’s at war to benefit his reelection campaign.

 But why should that matter? Why should anybody care? Why should I care?

 Before I was a member of Congress, I was an American soldier serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And although some years have passed since that time, there are still some memories that are seared in my brain. One of those memories was scavenging scrap metal on the streets of Baghdad in the summer of 2003 that we had to bolt onto the side of our trucks because we had no armor to protect us against roadside bombs.

So when we talk about troops not getting the equipment they need when they need it, it’s personal to me.

To be clear, here, we are talking about 391 million dollars of taxpayer money intended to protect our national security by helping our strategic partner, Ukraine, fight against Vladimir Putin’s Russia, an adversary of the United States.

But the President could not carry out this scheme alone.  He needed a lot of people to help him.  And that’s why we know as much about it as we do today.  

But there is more to know. And that’s what trials are for – to get the full picture.

We know there’s more because President Trump needed the Office of Management and Budget to figure out how to stop what should have been a routine release of funds mandated by Congress. A release of funds that was already underway. 

But the people in this chamber don’t need me to tell you that. Because 87 of you in this room voted for those vital funds to support our partner Ukraine. 

Witnesses before the House testified extensively about OMB’s involvement in carrying out the hold.

It was OMB that relayed the President’s instructions and implemented the hold.

And it was OMB that scrambled to justify the freeze.

OMB has key documents that President Trump has refused to turn over to Congress. It is time to subpoena these documents. These documents would provide insight into critical aspects of the military aid hold. They would show the decision-making process and motivations behind President Trump’s freeze. They would reveal the concerns expressed by career OMB officials—including lawyers—that the hold was violating the law. They would expose the lengths to which OMB went to justify the President’s hold. They would reveal concerns about the impact of the freeze on Ukraine and U.S. national security. And they would show that senior officials repeatedly attempted to convince President Trump to release the hold.

In short, they would show exactly how the President carried out the scheme to use our national defense funds to benefit his political campaign. 

We are not speculating about the existence of these documents.  We are not guessing what the documents might show.  During the course of the investigation in the House, witnesses who testified before the Committees identified multiple documents directly relevant to the impeachment inquiry that OMB continues to hold to this day. We know these documents exist.  And we know that the only reason we do not have them is because the President directed OMB not to produce them. Because he knows what they would show.

To demonstrate the significance of the OMB documents and the value they would provide in this trial, I would like to walk you through some of what we know exists, but which the Trump Administration has refused to turn over. As we have discussed, the Trump Administration refused to turn over any documents to the House in response to multiple subpoenas and requests. Based on what is known from the testimony and the few documents that have been obtained through public reporting and lawsuits, it’s clear that the President is trying to hide this evidence because he is afraid what it would show. 

The documents offer stark examples of the chaos and confusion that the President’s scheme set off across our government, and they make clear the importance of the documents that are still being concealed by the President. We know that OMB has documents that reveal that as early as June, the President was considering holding military aid for Ukraine.

The President began questioning military aid to Ukraine after Congress appropriated and authorized the money:  $250 million in DOD funds, and $141 million in State Department funds. This funding had wide bipartisan support because, as many witnesses testified, providing military aid to help Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aggression benefits our own national security. Importantly, the President’s questions came weeks after the Department of Defense already certified that Ukraine had undertaken the anticorruption reforms and other measures mandated by Congress as a condition for receiving that aid.  So there is a process for ensuring the funds make it to the right place, to the right people—a process that had been followed every year that we have been providing that security assistance to Ukraine including the first two years under the Trump Administration.

Nonetheless, the President’s questions came days after DOD issued a press release, on June 18, announcing it would provide its $250 million portion of the taxpayer-funded military aid to Ukraine.  

According to public reporting, the day after DOD’s press release, a White House official named Robert Blair called OMB’s Acting Director, Russell Vought, to talk about military aid to Ukraine.  According to public reports, Mr. Blair told Vought, quote, “We need to hold it up.”  OMB has refused to produce any documents related to this conversation.  The Senate can get them by passing the Amendment and issuing a subpoena. 

But there’s more.  The same day Blair told Vought to hold up the aid, Michael Duffey—a political appointee at OMB who reports to Vought—emailed Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Elaine McCusker and told her that the President had questions about the aid. 

Duffey copied Mark Sandy, a career official at OMB who told us about the email in his testimony before the House. Like all others, that email was not produced by the Trump Administration in the House impeachment investigation. We know this email exists, however.  Because in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the Trump Administration was forced to release a redacted email consistent with Sandy’s description.  But OMB provided none of those documents to the House.  With this proposed Amendment, the Senate has an opportunity to obtain and review the full record that could further demonstrate how and why the President was holding the aid. These documents would also shed light on the President’s order to implement the hold. 

On July 3, the State Department told various officials that OMB blocked it from dispensing 141 million dollars in aid.  OMB had directed the State Department not to send a notification to Congress about spending the money and without that notification, the aid was effectively blocked. Why did OMB block the congressional notification?  Who told them to do it?  What was the reason? The Senate would get those answers if it issued this subpoena. But there’s more.

On July 12, Blair—the White House official who had called Vought on June 19 and said, quote, “we need to hold it up”— then  sent an email to Duffey at OMB.  Blair said, quote, “the President is directing a hold on military support funding for Ukraine.”

 We haven’t seen this email.  The only reason we know about it is from the testimony of Mark Sandy, the career OMB official who followed the law and complied with his subpoena.As you can see from the transcript excerpt in front of you, Sandy testified that the July 12 email did not mention concerns about any other country or any other military aid packages.  Just Ukraine. 

So of the several dozen countries that we provide aid and support, the President was only concerned about one of them: Ukraine.

Why? Well we know why. 

But OMB has refused to provide a copy of this July 12 email and has refused to provide any documents surrounding it, all because the President told OMB to continue to hide the truth from Congress and the American people. 

What was he afraid of?

A subpoena issued by the Senate would show us. OMB also has documents about a key series of meetings triggered by the President’s order to hold the military aid.

In the second half of July, the National Security Council convened a series of interagency meetings about the President’s hold on military aid.  OMB documents would show what happened during those meetings. For example, on July 18, the National Security Council staff convened a routine interagency meeting to discuss Ukraine policy.  During the meeting, it was the OMB representative who announced that President Trump placed a hold on all military aid to Ukraine.  Ambassador Bill Taylor, our most senior diplomat to Ukraine participated in that meeting.  And he described his reaction at his open hearing: It’s hard to believe that OMB would not have documents following this bombshell announcement.  It surely does.  It was the agency that delivered the shocking news to the rest of the U.S. government that the President was withholding the vital military aid from our partner.  And we would see these documents if the Senate issued a subpoena.

The July 18 meeting was just the first in a series of meetings where OMB held the line and enforced the President’s hold on the aid. But there was a second meeting on July 23, where we understand agencies raised concerns about the legality of OMB’s hold on the aid. And then a third meeting, at a more senior level, on July 26.  Witnesses testified that at that meeting, OMB struggled to offer an explanation for the President’s hold on the aid. And then a fourth meeting on July 31, where the legal concerns about the hold were raised.

At each of these meetings there was confusion about the scope and reasons for the hold.  Nobody seemed to know what was going on.  But that was exactly the point. All of the agencies – except OMB who was simply conveying the President’s order – supported the military aid and argued for lifting the hold. OMB did not produce a single document providing information about its participation, preparation, or follow-up from any of these meetings.  

Did these OMB officials come prepared with talking points for these meetings? 

Did OMB officials take notes during any of these meetings?

Did they exchange emails about what was going on? 

Did OMB discuss what reasons they could give everyone else for the hold? 

By issuing this subpoena, the Senate can find out the answers to all of those questions and others like them.  The American people deserve answers.  OMB documents would also reveal key facts about what happened on July 25. On July 25, President Trump conducted his phone call with President Zelensky, during which he demanded a “favor.” This favor was for Ukraine to conduct an investigation to benefit the President’s re-election campaign. That call was at 9:00 am.Just 90 minutes after President Trump hung up the phone, Duffey—the political appointee at OMB who is in charge of national security programs—emailed DOD to quote, “formalize” the hold on the military aid. 

Just 90 minutes after President Trump’s call.  A call in which President Trump asked for “a favor.” That email is on the screen in front of you. We have a redacted copy of this email because it was recently released through the Freedom of Information Act.  It was not released by the Trump Administration in response to the House’s subpoena. In this email, Duffey told the DOD officials that based on the guidance he had received, they should quote, “hold off on any additional DOD obligations of these funds.” 

He added that the request was “sensitive” and that they should keep this information, “closely held.” Meaning, don’t tell anybody about it. Why did Duffey consider the information sensitive?  Why didn’t he want anyone to learn about it? Answers to those questions may be found in OMB emails.  Emails that we could all see if you issue a subpoena.

But there’s more.

Remember, the Administration needed to create a way to stop funding that was already underway, the train had already left the station, and something like this had never been done before. Later in the evening of July 25, OMB found a way—even though DOD had already notified Congress that the funds would be released.  

Here is how the scheme worked.

OMB sent DOD a funding document that included a carefully worded footnote directing DOD to hold off on spending the funds, quote, “to allow for an interagency process to determine the best use.” Remember that language: “to allow for an interagency process to determine the best use.”

Let me explain that.

The footnote stated that this, quote, “brief pause,” would not prevent DOD from spending the money by the end of the fiscal year—which was coming up on September 30.  OMB had to do this because it knew that not spending the money was illegal.  And they knew that DOD would be worried about that.  And they were right.

Mr. Sandy testified that in his 12 years of experience at OMB, he could not recall anything like this ever happening before. 

The drafting of this unusual funding document and the issuance of the document must have generated a significant amount of email traffic, memos, and other documentation at OMB. Memos, email traffic, and documentation that we would all see if the Senate issued a subpoena.

So, what was the result from this series of events on July 25?  

Where was Mr. Duffey’s guidance to implement the hold coming from?

Why was the request “sensitive”?  

What was the connection between OMB’s direction to DOD and the call President Trump had with President Zelensky just 90 minutes before? 

Did agency officials communicate about the questions coming from Ukrainian officials? 

The American people deserve answers.  A subpoena would provide those answers. OMB documents also would reveal information about the decision to have a political appointee take over Ukraine funding responsibility. The tensions and chaos surrounding the freeze escalated at the end of July when Duffey—a political appointee at OMB with no relevant experience in funding approvals—took authority for releasing military aid to Ukraine away from Sandy—a career OMB official. 

Sandy could think of no other example of a political appointee taking on this responsibility. Sandy was given no reason other than that Mr. Duffey wanted to be, quote, “more involved in daily operations.” During his deposition, Sandy confirmed that he was removed from the funding approval process after he had raised concerns to Duffey about whether the hold was legal under the Impoundment Control Act. Needless to say, OMB has refused to turn over any documents or communications involving that decision to replace Mr. Sandy.  

Why did Duffey – a political appointee with no relevant experience in this area – take over responsibility for Ukraine funding approval?

Was the White House involved in that decision?  

Was Sandy removed because he had expressed concerns about the legality of the hold?

By August 7, people in our government were worried.  And when people in the government get worried, sometimes what they do is draft memos. Because when they are concerned about people doing the wrong thing, they don’t want to be involved on that day, Mark Sandy and other colleagues at OMB drafted and sent a memo about Ukraine military aid to Acting OMB Director Vought.  According to Sandy, the memo advocated for the release of the funds.  It said that the military aid was consistent with American national security interests, helped to oppose Russian aggression, and was backed by strong bipartisan support.

But President Trump did not lift the hold.  Over the next several weeks, OMB continued to issue funding documents that kept kicking the can down the road—supposedly to allow for more of this “interagency process”—while inserting footnotes throughout the apportionment documents stating that the delay wouldn’t affect the funding. 

But here’s the shocking part. There was no interagency process. They made it up.  It had ended months before.  They made it up because nobody could say the real reason for the hold. In total, OMB issued nine of these documents between July 25 and September 10.

Did the White House respond to OMB’s concerns and recommendation to release the aid?

Did the White House instruct OMB to continue creating a paper trail in an effort to justify the hold? 

Who knew what and when?

OMB documents would also shed light on OMB’s actions as the President’s scheme unraveled. 

Did the White House direct OMB to continue issuing the hold?

What was OMB told about the President’s reasons for releasing the hold?

What communications did OMB officials have with the White House around the time of the release?

As the President’s scheme unraveled, did anyone at OMB connect the dots about the real reason for the hold?              

The OMB documents would shed light on all of these questions.  And the American people deserve answers. I remember what it feels like to not have the equipment you need when you need it. Real people’s lives are at stake. That’s why this matters. We need this information so we can ensure that this never happens again. Eventually, this will all come out. We will have answers to these questions. The question now is whether we will have them in time, and who here will be on the right side of history.

 

*REBUTTAL TO SEKULOW*

At war, time matters. Minutes and hours can seem like years. So the idea that, “well, it made it there eventually” just doesn’t work. Yes, the aid was provided, but it was provided by congress. This Senate, and the House of Representatives with the President’s signature. The Congress is the one that sends aids. And millions of dollars of this aid would have been lost because of the delay had congress not actually passed another law that extended that deadline to allow the funds to be spent. Let me repeat – the delay had jeopardized the expenditure of the funds to such an extent that Congress had to pass another law to extend the deadline to ensure that the money and equipment got to the people at the front lines.

Need I also reiterate this supposed interagency process, the concerns that the President and his counsel continue to raise about corruption and making sure the process went right. There was no interagency process. The whole thing was made up. It was a phantom. There was a delay. And delays matter.

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