White House officials struggled to set up meetings with President Donald Trump regarding frozen military aid to Ukraine because the president was golfing, according to a new report charting the events at the center of Trump’s Ukraine strategy and subsequent impeachment.
The report—published Sunday by The New York Times—details how senior administration officials tried to have Trump release hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for the Ukrainian military by Congress.
The president is accused of withholding the aid to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating debunked corruption allegations against possible 2020 opponent Joe Biden and conspiracy theories alleging Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Impeached by the House earlier this month, the president is expected to be tried by the Senate early next year.
The aid was eventually released in September, after an anonymous intelligence official whistleblower had submitted a complaint about the president’s conduct. The month before, the Times reported, officials had been working to address the freeze but were rebuffed by the president or frustrated by his schedule.
Pentagon officials had warned the White House budget office—headed by acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney—that $61 million of the frozen aid needed to be spent by August 12 or it would be lost.
The Times explained that the budget office saw the warning as an effort to force the release of the frozen aid.
In response, Mulvaney attempted to schedule a call with the president and other aids with knowledge of the freeze. However, they were unable to set a time because Trump was golfing with professional player John Daly at his Bedminster resort in New Jersey, and officials did not know how long the pair would be playing for.
The call never took place, the Times noted, though Trump eventually told Mulvaney from Bedminster on August 12 that he wanted the freeze kept in place. The whistleblower submitted their report that day.
Later that month, senior administration officials tried to convince the president to release the aid. The issue became public on August 28 when Politico reported the freeze.
Then-National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper joined Trump in the Oval Office to try and sway the president, but were unsuccessful.
Bolton told Trump the aid was “in America’s interest,” according to the Times, which cited an unnamed official briefed on the meeting.
Esper concurred, adding, “This defense relationship, we have gotten some really good benefits from it,” including the fact that most of the money was being spent on American goods.
But Trump reportedly stuck to his guns, asserting that Ukraine was “a corrupt country” and that the U.S. was “pissing away our money” by helping the new government headed by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Instead, Trump demanded that European nations do more to help Kiev in its ongoing conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country.
Newsweek has contacted the White House by email for a response to the Times report.