Two OMB staffers quit after expressing frustration about frozen Ukraine aid, top official says

Dartunorro Clark and Josh Lederman

Mark Sandy, a career staffer in White House Office of Management and Budget, told impeachment investigators that two budget staffers left the agency after expressing frustrations about the unexplained hold on Ukrainian aid, according to new closed-door transcripts released Tuesday.

Sandy said that one staffer, who worked in OMB’s legal office and whose name was undisclosed, told him they were leaving the agency, at least in part, because of their concerns regarding the hold on Ukraine security assistance.

Sandy, who is the deputy associate director for national security Programs at OMB, testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee, one of the committees leading the inquiry, on Nov. 16. He is the first OMB staffer to testify in the inquiry.

Sandy was asked specifically whether he knew this was a reason the legal office OMB staffer left.

"I never want to attribute that as the, you know, sole purpose for an individual's actions, but I am aware of their frustrations in that area, yes," Sandy said.

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Sandy said that the "best way to characterize" the legal office staffer’s concern "would be a dissenting opinion vis-a-vis the Impoundment Control Act," which is a law passed under President Richard Nixon to set restrictions on a president deferring Congressionally-allocated spending funds.

Several witnesses have testified in the impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats that there were concerns within the administration whether Trump’s hold on the Ukraine aid might violate this law. Democrats have seized on the aid in their inquiry into President Donald Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival.

Trump and his Republican allies in Congress, however, have defended the president by arguing that he acted within his power to withhold military aid to Ukraine because he was concerned about the corruption in the country.This is the first instance a witness has testified that someone within the budget office resigned over frustrations regarding the release of the aid.

Sandy also testified that another staffer, whose name was also undisclosed but did not work OMB’s legal division, also left the agency after expressing concerns about the hold up with the aid.

“Yes, this individual did express frustrations,” Sandy testified, later adding, “He expressed some frustrations about not understanding the reason for the hold.”

Sandy also testified that in early September, he was told the aid had been frozen over concerns that other countries weren't paying their fair share toward Ukraine.