Federal watchdog agency: Trump broke law with Ukraine scheme

Yolanda Curtis
January 16, 2020

The Government Accountability Office said the decision amounted to an "impoundment" of the funds because of a policy dispute, which is not an acceptable reason under the law for the White House to hold up money after Congress votes for it and the president signs it into law.

"Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law", the GAO wrote. The White House Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, told Congress, which had passed the budget law appropriating those funds, that they were being withheld to ensure they weren't spent "in a manner that could conflict with the President's foreign policy". The withholding was not a programmatic delay.

Michael Duffey, a political appointee at OMB who ordered the hold on Ukraine aid 90 minutes after Trump's phone call with Ukraine's president, is among the witnesses Democrats want to call at the impeachment trial.

The new determination by the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, comes as the Senate is set to take up the articles of impeachment against Trump, which were delivered from the House on Wednesday.

OMB spokeswoman Rachel Semmel said the budget office disagrees with the GAO's decision. He is still officially the OMB director.

"The Constitution grants the President no unilateral authority to withhold funds from obligation", the opinion said. In this case, the withheld aid was already released in September.

That money - $214 million which had been allocated to the Department of Defense for security assistance - was appropriated by Congress and therefore the administration was required to release it.

"Given that this illegal conduct threatened our security and undermined our elections, I feel even more strongly that the House has chosen the right course by impeaching President Trump", Lowey said in a statement.

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