Emails: US moved to freeze Ukraine aid 90 minutes after call

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democrats are renewing calls for witnesses in President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial following the release of emails that show the order to freeze aid to Ukraine came about 90 minutes after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s new president.

The 146 pages of heavily redacted government emails were obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

One email between a White House budget official Mike Duffey and the pentagon said: "Based on guidance I have received and in light of the administration's plan to review assistance to Ukraine, please hold off on any additional DOD obligations of these funds."

Duffey added, “Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute direction.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the email explosive.

"If there was ever an argument that we need Mr. Duffey to come testify, this is that information,” Schumer stressed.

In a statement to CNN, a spokeswoman for the budget office called it reckless to tie the hold of funds to the phone call.

“To pull a line out of one email and fail to address the context is misleading and inaccurate," the statement said.

Even so, critics say the emails are further proof that key administration officials should testify in the Senate trial.

“If the president is so innocent and claims he’s innocent, why would he not allow, just like Richard Nixon did, the people that were closest to him to testify?” Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked.

Lawmakers are away from Washington for the next two weeks as the impeachment battle is at a standstill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still refusing to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate until the majority and minority leaders agree on the trial's format and scope.

“She is focusing a spotlight on the need to have a fair trial in the United States Senate,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen said.

Trump's Republican allies blasted Pelosi for the move.

“She’s actually trying to tell Mitch McConnell how to run the Senate. She’s trampling on the separation of powers,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said.

One White House official said the delay is frustrating the president.

“He’s also anxious to get not just acquitted, but exonerated in the Senate. So he’s looking forward to his opportunity to have a fair trial in the Senate,” said Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence.

Some Democrats are frustrated too, saying McConnell and the GOP have already made up their minds before the start of the trial.

“He is not interested in the evidence. He’s not interested in the facts and wants to get this over with,” Sen Dick Durbin said. “That’s really a serious problem.”

Pelosi has yet to choose her team to argue the impeachment case before the Senate.

Democratic sources told CNN that House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff and Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler are likely candidates.

She’s also looking for a team that accurately represents her caucus, highlighting the diversity of the House Democrats.

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