Trump Administration Releases Military Aid to Lebanon

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, center, arrives to attend a military parade to mark the 76th anniversary of Lebanon’s independence from France at the Lebanese Defense Ministry, in Yarzeh near Beirut, Lebanon, on Nov. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Trump administration disclosed Monday that it released approximately $100 million in military aid to Lebanon after an unexplained delay.

The $105 million aid package was held up without explanation for months and was released before Thanksgiving. The administration informed lawmakers on Monday that the hold had been lifted, according to the Associated Press, which cited congressional staffers and an administration official who all spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Trump administration’s separate hold on a $400 million aid package earmarked for Ukraine has been the focus of the House’s impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump and lawmakers were quick to note the parallels with the mysterious hold on the Lebanese aid. 

In a tweet Monday, Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called the situation with the Lebanese aid “eerily similar” to the holdup with the Ukraine package. 

“There was no legitimate security rationale to withhold funding and lots of reasons why withholding aid would actually hurt U.S. interests,” Murphy said in a statement. “But the administration alarmingly decided to delay these funds without explanation and did so at the worst possible time.”  

There is no evidence that Trump was holding up the aid in exchange for something from Lebanon, as he is alleged to have done in the Ukraine scandal.

Representatives Eliot Engel, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat, sent the White House a letter early last month demanding an explanation to the hold on the Lebanese aid but the administration remained mum.

David Hale, a high-ranking diplomat at the State Department acknowledged the aid freeze during his public testimony in the impeachment inquiry at the end of November, though he did not claim the administration was seeking anything from Lebanon as a condition of releasing the aid.

During his closed-door testimony, Hale told lawmakers there appeared to be “a dispute over the efficacy of the assistance,” but the end of his answer was redacted.

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment on Monday evening.

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