The White House is expected to withdraw its nominee for Pentagon Comptroller and Chief Financial Officer after discovering that Elaine McCusker resisted the administration’s order to withhold congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine, according to a New York Post report Tuesday. The move follows the ousters of impeachment witnesses Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and appears to be another sign that President Donald Trump is exacting revenge against those he believes betrayed him.
McCusker, who currently serves as the Pentagon’s acting comptroller, never spoke publicly about the order to withhold aid, but internal White House emails obtained by Just Security prior to the impeachment trial in the Senate illustrated her pushing back against the decision and warning officials that it likely violated the law. Trump formally nominated her for the permanent comptroller position in Nov. 2019.
A White House official told the New York Post that the administration “needs people who are committed to implementing the president’s agenda, specifically on foreign policy, and not trying to thwart it.”
As previously reported by Law&Crime, McCusker was one of the first Trump administration officials to flag the hold on the aid as being problematic and question whether the decision was legal.
“As we discussed, as of 12 AUG I don’t think we can agree that the pause ‘will not preclude timely execution.’ We hope it won’t and will do all we can to execute once the policy decision is made, but can no longer make that declarative statement,” McCusker wrote to career OMB official Mark Sandy–who initially signed off on the hold of the aid in the beginning of July–and Trump’s hand-picked OMB Associate Director for National Security Programs Michael Duffey.
On Aug. 26, two days before the hold on the aid was reported publicly for the first time in Politico, McCusker again emailed Duffey, concerned about non-compliance with the “impoundment” law’s requirements.
“What is the status of the impoundment paperwork?” McCusker asked at 5:38 a.m.
“What paperwork?” Duffey responded. “I am not tracking that. Is that something you are expecting from OMB?”
“Yes, it is now necessary — legal teams were discussing last week,” McCusker answered.
Prior to the leak, the emails initially released by the White House under a Freedom of Information Act request redacted all of McCusker’s legal concerns.
After the scandal went public, Duffey tried to paint the Pentagon and McCusker as being responsible.
“As you know, the President wanted a policy process run to determine the best use of these funds, and he specifically mentioned this to the SecDef the previous week,” Duffey wrote on Sept. 9. “OMB developed a footnote authorizing DoD to proceed with all processes necessary to obligate funds. If you have not taken these steps, that is contrary to OMB’s direction and was your decision not to proceed. If you are unable to obligate the funds, it will have been DoD’s decision that cause any impoundment of funds.”
“You can’t be serious,” she responded. “I am speechless.”
[image via SAUL LOEB_AFP via Getty Images]