Government Accountability Office Says Trump Broke Law By Withholding Ukraine Aid
The White House’s order to put a hold on U.S. military aid to Ukraine last year was a violation of federal law, the Government Accountability Office said in a report on the matter released Thursday.
Senator Chris Van Hollen on Twitter
“This bombshell legal opinion from the independent @USGAO demonstrates, without a doubt, that the Trump Administration illegally withheld assistance from Ukraine and the public evidence shows that the president himself ordered this illegal act.”
According to The Washington Post, the GAO — which is a nonpartisan agency that reports to Congress — found that the Trump administration ran afoul of the Impoundment Control Act, a “law that governs how the White House disburses money approved by Congress.”
“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 decision states. “[The White House Office of Management and Budget] withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act.”
The White House was quick to respond, The Post noted, claiming the GAO decision was an “overreach,” calling it an attempt to join in the “media’s controversy of the day.”
“We disagree with GAO’s opinion,” OMB spokeswoman Rachel Semmel said. “OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law.”
However, even if the GAO believes the administration did break the law, there are no real legal ramifications, The Post reported. The most the watchdog can do is sue an administration to release the funds being withheld — but in this case, the funds were released in September, after Trump was pressured by Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to release the hold. By that time, the administration was aware of a whistleblower complaint regarding the matter.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) requested the report in December, after the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal was well underway.
“This bombshell legal opinion from the independent Government Accountability Office demonstrates, without a doubt, that the Trump administration illegally withheld security assistance from Ukraine,” Van Hollen said of the GAO’s report, which was released just one day after the House voted to send two articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial.
House Democrats allege that Trump acted illegally in withholding the aid to Ukraine while he pressured the country’s president to announce investigations into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Bide. They also allege that Trump then acted to cover up his actions and hinder their inquiry, resulting in the House landing on two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.