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Watchdog: Trump Administration Broke Federal Law By Withholding Ukraine Security Funds

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Watchdog: Trump Administration Broke Federal Law By Withholding Ukraine Security Funds

2020-01-16 14:26:211 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Chanel Adams : Image source:

The White House budget office violated federal law in withholding Ukraine security funds, according to a nonpartisan government watchdog. The Government Accountability Office revealed in a report on Thursday, Jan. 16. The White House Office Management and Budget didn't have the authority to withhold the money under the federal Impoundment Control Act, which governs Congress' role in the budget process. According to the Government Accountability Office, the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld the US security aid to Ukraine in 2019 that was appropriated by Congress. This is the very decision that was the center of the House's impeachment case against President Donald Trump.

The GAO reached a decision on Thursday claiming that the White House budget office violated the Impoundment Control Act, a 1975 law that limits the White House from withholding funds that Congress appropriated. The Office of Management and Budget told the GAO it "withheld the funds to ensure that they were not spent 'in a manner that could conflict with the President's foreign policy,'" according to Thomas Armstrong, the GAO's general counsel. However, the GAO rejected that argument.

"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 report revealed. "OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act. The withholding was not a programmatic delay. Therefore, we conclude that OMB violated the ICA."

The White House has since disputed the watchdog group's latest findings, according to USA Today.

"We disagree with GAO's opinion," Rachel Semmel, an OMB spokesperson, said. "OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the president's priorities and with the law."

The watchdog agency's report was released as the Senate is preparing to swear in the House impeachment managers who will prosecute the impeachment against Trump in the Senate. Back in December, the House approved two articles of impeachment against Trump. The two charges were for obstructing Congress and abusing his power by asking Ukrainian officials by announcing investigations that would lead to his re-election and obstructing Congress.

It was reported that the White House spent $400 million in security aid to Ukraine. Trump placed pressure on Ukraine to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, both of which sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Mick Mulvaney, Trump's current chief of staff, said that the money was withheld because of Trump's need to investigate the potential corruption against U.S. domestic politics.

Back in September, Trump revealed that he withheld the funds but didn't use it as leverage to demand an investigation by Kieven into the Bidens. The reason why Trump withheld the money is because he wanted other countries to contribute. The money was then released to Ukraine after an infamous whistleblower complain was filed. The news of the withholdings was made public. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to the GAO's report on Thursday morning with a statement. He demanded that the Senate would consider providing additional documents as evidence in the upcoming impeachment trial. 

“The GAO opinion makes clear that the documents we requested in our letter last month are even more needed now because GAO confirmed the president broke the law," Schumer said. “All senators will get a chance to vote to obtain these documents next week.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, also released a statement. She revealed that she was concerned that the Trump administration seized Congress' constitutional authority, according to a Fox News report.

"Today's report is extremely troubling because it documents in great detail President Trump's belief that he is above the law and his utter contempt for Congress as a co-equal branch of government," she wrote.

This now raises constitutional concerns over the lack of cooperation from Trump and his executive branch officials with the GAO's investigation. The report concluded that "a reluctance to provide a fulsome response," on the part of the OMB and the State Department. According to Armstrong, it interfered with the GAO's oversight role on behalf of the Congress. The GAO revealed that it's not done on the matter since the State Department and OMB didn't provide the requested information related to the withholdings of State Department funding to Ukraine.

"We will continue to pursue this matter," the watchdog wrote, according to CNN.

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