Feb. 2 (UPI) — In a midnight court filing Friday, the Department of Justice revealed the existence of 24 emails that reveal Trump’s thinking about withholding military aid to Ukraine.
The filing came hours after the Senate voted against seeking subpoenas in the impeachment case against the President, and marks the first official acknowledgement from the Trump administration that such emails exist and that Trump was directly involved in asking about and deciding on the aid as early as June.
In Friday’s filing the administration asked the court to deny the Center for Public Integrity’s request for unredacted copies.
In December CPI received heavily redacted versions of the messages, but the administration has prevented their full release to the public or to Congress.
Heather Walsh, a lawyer for the Office of Management and Budget, wrote to the court, that the emails — which were sent between June and September 2019 — should stay confidential because they are protected under “presidential privilege.”
“Specifically, the documents in this category are emails that reflect communications by either the President, the Vice President, or the President’s immediate advisors regarding Presidential decision-making about the scope, duration, and purpose of the hold on military assistance to Ukraine,” Walsh wrote.
President Trump’s decision to withhold $391 million in military aid to Ukraine is at the center of the impeachment case against him.
The articles of impeachment allege the decision was an attempt to gain leverage as he pressed the country to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, but the president’s attorneys have argued Democrats haven’t provided sufficient evidence of what motivated his decision.
The administration has also refused to release certain documents or allow some witnesses to testify, and those who have testified have confirmed Trump requested that aid be withheld, but have also said they were never given a reason.
“The facts will come out in all of their horror,” Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California who led the House’s prosecution case against the President, said in closing remarks Friday. “The documents the president is hiding will come out. The witnesses the president is concealing will tell their stories.”
The Senate will begin closing arguments in the impeachment trial Monday. On Wednesday — the day after President Trump is scheduled to deliver the annual State of the Union address — the Senate will vote on whether to convict him.