(CNN)The praise or condemnation President Donald Trump is drawing for the latest US actions in the Middle East in no way diminishes the power of the legal bombshell that just exploded in the United States with new evidence of his behavior regarding Ukraine.
Newly revealed documents paint an incriminating picture, showing administration officials anxiously struggling to follow orders from Trump himself despite concerns that the order could go against the national security interests of the United States and warnings from the Pentagon that it could be illegal.
The emails are the portrait of a corrupt policy and an effort to conceal it -- a tug of war between two sets of government officials, one side trying to protect American security and follow the law, another working to enforce direct orders of the President of the United States.
The documents, obtained through the work of the Center for Public Integrity and later, in their unredacted versions, revealed by the online legal forum Just Security, show that administration officials knew Trump was ordering them to do something possibly illegal.
Just hours after Trump's infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky -- the one Trump absurdly calls "perfect" during which he requested a "favor" from Ukraine -- Michael Duffey, at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), emailed the Pentagon to put a hold on aid to Ukraine and said to keep the decision secret "given the sensitive nature of the request."
Over the succeeding weeks, OMB and the Pentagon discussed the decision.
Pentagon lawyers and others appeared to grow increasingly anxious. Duffey later writes, "Clear direction from POTUS to hold," again making it clear this was the President's doing.
On July 26, the "Ukraine Deputies Small Group" met. The National Security Council's top Ukraine experts -- Trump's own team -- declared "unanimous support" for restarting military funding as Russia's allies continued their assault on eastern Ukraine.
As the clock ticked toward a disbursement deadline, aides increasingly raised the legality of the issue.
And rightly so. The decision didn't just run against national security, it violated the law.
Under the Impoundment Control Act (ICA), the administration is obligated to spend the money as directed by Congress. If it doesn't, it is required to inform Congress that it is doing so and why.
In a draft letter by the Pentagon to the OMB, top Defense Department officials noted, "We have repeatedly advised OMB officials" that the suspension of aid jeopardizes "the Department's ability" to comply with the ICA.
With the deadline for compliance nearing, the infighting and finger pointing intensified. Elaine McCusker, the Pentagon's acting controller, asked Eric Chewning, the chief of staff of Defense Secretary Mike Esper, "Do you believe DOD is adequately protected from what may happen?"