When Donald Trump handed down the demand that military assistance to Ukraine go into the freezer until he got the Biden-dirt he was demanding from the U.S. ally, someone had to carry out that order. That person was Mick Mulvaney. In his double role as acting chief of staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mulvaney both is right there to catch whatever Trump is pitching and has the government’s checkbook in hand.
So Trump told Mulvaney, who told the OMB staff, who told the Department of Defense to stop sending Ukraine the materials it needed to survive. And they also told the DOD to shut up about it, because all this stuff was illegal as hell. Of course, those OMB officials all refused to testify before Congress, and Mulvaney, after bragging about the whole thing in front of every television network in America, then walked it back on Twitter. So it never happened.
Then the emails started coming out.
Over at the website Just Security, they’ve been combing through the emails that have been obtained over the last two months since hearings ended in the House. Most of those emails have been released through Freedom of Information Act requests filed by various media and nonprofit sites. However, those official FOIA versions of the emails have been redacted so heavily that Sharpie stock probably got a bump. The fragments that survive certainly tell a story: a story of criminals criming, and covering it up.
But what’s even better is that Just Security managed to find sources for some of those same emails without their heavy coat of black paint. Those emails confirm that both the DOD and the OMB were completely aware that what they were doing was a violation of the Impoundment Control Act. Pentagon officials repeatedly complain and point this out. OMB officials acknowledge this fact … then go back to telling the folks at the Pentagon to clam up.
Simultaneously, the letters reveal that the OMB was taking a different tack when it came to concerns expressed by the Government Accountability Office. With the GAO, the OMB officials mostly played dumb and pretended that everything was on track. That sometimes required just misleading the GAO. Sometimes it meant outright lies.
Just Security’s glimpse at the unredacted emails also reveals something else: The redactions made to the official versions were not made because they touch on information that is classified or protected by some form of executive privilege. Instead, the site notes, the redactions show that “OMB is continuing its efforts to keep its knowledge of the Pentagon’s legal worries a secret, blacking out the portions of the emails where DoD officials voiced their concerns and where OMB staffers acknowledged them.” The redactions made to these documents were not made casually. According to The Washington Post, they were reviewed by OMB attorney Mark Paoletta, who “signed off on the delay of security assistance to Ukraine” and overruled career officials.
- They knew they were involved in a crime.
- The debated various excuses for their action.
- They told Pentagon officials to help them in the cover-up.
- That cover-up continues in the redactions made in response to FOIA requests.
At this point it’s hard to even say that the House should subpoena Paoletta and OMB official Michael Duffey. It should just go on to contempt … for the contemptible.