POLITICS
08/19/2013 11:05 pm ET Updated Aug 20, 2013

Obama Administration Secretly Suspends Military Aid To Egypt, Patrick Leahy Says

The Obama administration has secretly suspended military aid to Egypt, The Daily Beast reported on Monday.

A spokesman for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the head of the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, told The Daily Beast that the Obama administration has decided to withhold aid from Egypt.

Leahy’s "understanding is that aid to the Egyptian military has been halted, as required by law,” Leahy's spokesman, David Carle, said.

The Obama administration's public comments haven't mentioned an official hold on U.S. aid.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during the State Department's daily press briefing on Monday that about $585 million of $1.23 billion in U.S. Foreign Military Financing to Egypt for the year remains "unobligated."

"It would be inaccurate to say that a policy decision has been made with respect to the remaining assistance funding," Psaki said. Psaki said the State Department didn't intend to determine whether Egypt's ouster of President Mohamed Morsi was a coup. U.S. law says aid must be suspended in the event of a military coup.

Obama administration lawyers decided it was best to act as if a coup had been designated, without publicly making the declaration, The Daily Beast reported. That position safeguards the administration in the event the coup determination is officially made later.

"The decision was we're going to avoid saying it was a coup, but to stay on the safe side of the law, we are going to act as if the designation has been made for now," one official told The Daily Beast. "By not announcing the decision, it gives the administration the flexibility to reverse it."

Last week, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. would cancel a bi-annual joint military exercise with Egypt, but did not suspend other forms of aid. Obama cited national security interests and "the belief that our engagement can support a transition back to democracy" as reasons for continuing aid to Egypt.

UPDATE -- 10:05 a.m.: According to The Hill, the White House is calling the Daily Beast report "incorrect."

“The report that we have suspended assistance to Egypt is incorrect,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

“As the President has said, we are reviewing all of our assistance to Egypt. No policy decisions have been made at this point regarding the remaining assistance,” she added.

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