Once a budget line, Ukraine aid now roils Trump’s presidency

WASHINGTON (AP) — The military assistance for Ukraine that’s at the center of President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry started as a mere line item in a massive spending bill.

The money was little discussed, was noncontroversial and was approved with strong bipartisan support.

So, lawmakers were mystified upon learning in August that the $391 million was held up. Trump had ordered the aid frozen, a decision carried out by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

One U.S. diplomat has told House impeachment investigators he learned the aid was being withheld in a July 18 conference call. The diplomat, William Taylor, said he was astonished by the decision.

The eventual release of the aid to Ukraine came only after senators were about to deliver an embarrassing rebuke of the White House.

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