Government Watchdog: Yes, Trump Violated the Law

As the impeachment trial starts, another big piece of information
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2020 11:18 AM CST
Government Accountability Office: Yes, Trump Violated the Law
The Senate building is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(Newser) – The Senate may not yet have decided whether to convict President Trump, but as the POTUS' impeachment trial begins, a congressional watchdog has determined his administration did indeed break the law. The Government Accountability Office, which is nonpartisan and reports to Congress, says the White House's freeze on military aid to Ukraine violated a federal law dictating how money approved by Congress is to be disbursed, according to a decision released Thursday. As the Washington Post recounts, a senior budget official directed the Defense Department to withhold the aid hours after Trump's infamous July call with Ukraine's president; ultimately, some Office of Management and Budget officials objected and even resigned over the controversy.

"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's decision states. "[The Office of Management and Budget] withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act." An OMB rep says the office disagrees: "OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the president's priorities and with the law." A senior administration official goes further, telling Fox News, "GAO's findings are a pretty clear overreach as they attempt to insert themselves into the media's controversy of the day." On the other side, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says the GAO's opinion "makes clear" the Senate should consider additional documents as evidence during the impeachment trial. A vote on that will be held next week. (Read more Trump impeachment stories.)

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