Trump reportedly put freeze on aid before call with Ukraine president – NBCNews.com

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump ordered his staff to freeze nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine a few days before a phone call in which he pressured the Eastern European nation’s leader to investigate the family of political rival Joe Biden, a new revelation that comes as more Democrats move toward impeachment proceedings.

Trump’s order was first reported by The Washington Post and was confirmed to The Associated Press by two people familiar with but not authorized to discuss private conversations. They spoke on condition of anonymity.

Late Monday, an influential group of freshmen Democrats who served in the military and national security before winning office said Trump’s actions cut to the core of the country’s defenses. Their views, as centrist lawmakers from previously Republican-held districts where Trump has been popular, hold sway with party leadership.

At issue is a summer phone call with Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump is said to have pushed for investigations into Biden. In the days before that call, Trump ordered the aid to Ukraine frozen.

Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong and has denied that any requests for help in procuring damaging information about Biden were tied to the aid freeze.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley on Monday night denied reports about withholding military funds.

“The media pushed the Russia lie for almost three years with no evidence, and now they are doing it all over again,” he told NBC News. “These allegations are completely false, but because the media wants this story to be true so badly, they’ll once again manufacture a frenzy and drive ignorant, fake stories to attack this president.”

Democrats, and some Republicans, urged the White House to be open about his actions, which are the center of a whistleblower complaint. But with no new information from the administration forthcoming, more than a dozen Democrats, including some in House leadership, added their names to those calling for impeachment proceedings.

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