Congress's bipartisan guard dog notes that Trump's Ukrainian policy has violated the law - Mother Jones

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The Trump administration has broken the law by not properly holding back security measures from Ukraine. This resulted in a legal decision that was released on Thursday by the Government Accountability Office, an independent Congress watchdog. While the White House budget administration office had told the GAO that it wanted to ensure that funds were not “spent in a manner that might be contrary to the President’s foreign policy,” the auditors found that the blocking of almost $ 214 million required for the military is illegal and without proper legal justification

“The administration – I say that – broke the law.”

“Proper implementation of the law does not allow the President to replace Congress’s political priorities with his own,” said the decision, passed by GAO General Counsel Thomas Armstrong. “OMB has withheld funds for a political reason that is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act (ICA). The retention was not a programmatic delay. We therefore conclude that the OMB has violated the ICA. “

This blunt determination comes on the same day that House Democrats officially submitted impeachment proceedings to the Senate, outlining how President Donald Trump corrupted foreign policy toward Ukraine for his personal benefit. The Republican-controlled upper chamber will debate whether the president should be removed from office to make Ukrainian military aid dependent on the country launching a series of investigations into Trump’s political rivals. Last month, the House of Democrats charged Trump with a largely partisan vote, finding that he had misused his powers by exerting pressure on Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and an energy company associated with his son Hunter.

In early July, state auditors charged with overseeing the Budget Act found that OMB had delayed Congress’s release of funds for Ukraine to the Pentagon nine times because the White House claimed that the ban was necessary to “provide a process for.” to enable the identification of the best means “use of such means. “Presidents have limited powers to withhold funds approved by Congress and must officially inform Congress of the reasons for the delay. The Trump administration didn’t do that. The delays, which blocked more than 85 percent of the $ 250 million that had been made available to Ukraine in the past fiscal year, are a key part of the Democrats’ arguments to free Trump from the presidency.

Shortly after the decision was released, it was highlighted by several Democrats who were the focus of the impeachment investigation as further confirmation of the improper conduct of Trump and his allies.

“President Trump’s behavior is all the more outrageous because he didn’t hold back the money for political reasons,” said MP Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) In a statement, “but for the corrupt purpose of seeking foreign aid.” his reelection campaign. “

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) Called it a “Bombshell Legal Opinion” in a series of tweets, which underlined the “urgent need to obtain all relevant documents and hear from all key witnesses to ensure fair trial” Spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Reiterated the argument when reading parts of the decision at her weekly press conference, saying, “The White House, the administration – I say that – broke the law.”

Spokesman Pelosi on the GAO report: “The OMB, the White House and the government have violated the law – I say that – which again increases the need for documents and eyewitnesses in the Senate.”

– Kyle Griffin (@ kylegriffin1) January 16, 2020

When the decision was received on Thursday, OMB spokeswoman Rachel Semmel contested her conclusions. “We disagree with the GAO’s opinion,” she told the New York Times, insisting that the White House violated the law. “OMB is using its powers of division to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent in accordance with the priorities of the President and the United States government.” Law.”

On the contrary, the report found that OMB employees were concerned only with Trump’s priorities and not with their legal responsibilities.

“The president has limited powers to hold funds under the 1974 Impoundment Control Act,” said Armstrong in a statement accompanying his statement. “The law does not allow OMB to withhold funds for political reasons.”