The White House designated the authority to hold up nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine to a political appointee after career budget staffers questioned the legality of the delay, according to news reports Thursday.
Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs in the Office of Management and Budget, was given the authority by the agency's acting director, Russell Vought, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The newspaper cited "people familiar with the matter." The White House declined to comment.
The Ukrainian funding issue is among those being examined by six Democratic House committees in its impeachment probe of President Donald Trump.
Duffey, who was a member of Trump's transition team, served in various top jobs at the Pentagon and later became executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party.
Once he began his OMB post, career officials prepared documents surrounding the approving and releasing of funds for foreign aid and defense accounts — called apportionments — and Duffey reviewed and signed off on them, the Journal reports.
Regarding Ukraine, Trump ordered the aid frozen days before his July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Trump has said he ordered the freeze because he wanted European countries to support Ukraine more, adding that the funds were not contingent on any investigation of former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
However, OMB career officials raised concerns about the hold-up because they had not received an "explanation or justification about why the administration was delaying the aid" and worried about the legal ramifications, the Journal reports.
"Those decisions were made pretty high up, with some concern by people who are career employees who were not super comfortable," one person familiar with the matter told the newspaper.
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