Gov't Watchdog Office: OMB Broke Law With Trump-Ordered Ukraine Aid Freeze

Donald Trump

Now, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has determined that the Trump administration violated federal law by withholding military aide to the Ukraine.

T he Government Accountability Office said in a report that the Office of Management and Budget violated the law in holding up the aid, which Congress passed less than a year ago, saying "the President is not vested with the power to ignore or amend any such duly enacted law". "The law does not permit OMB to withhold funds for policy reasons". The withholding was not a programmatic delay.

Trump was impeached last month on charges of abusing his power for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rivals, as he was withholding the aid, and for obstructing Congress' ensuing probe.

The report's damning assessment landed just as Trump's impeachment trial was set to convene in the US Senate.

Trump had placed a hold on a total of $391 million of security assistance to Ukraine and has provided various reasons for doing so - including that European allies have not contributed enough to Ukraine's security or that he was concerned the money would be well-spent and not used for corruption. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., tweeted that the ruling by the government watchdog demonstrates "without a doubt" that "the president himself ordered this illegal act".

"The Constitution grants the President no unilateral authority to withhold funds from obligation", the opinion said. But the GAO rejected that argument. OMB told GAO that it withheld the funds to ensure that they were not spent "in a manner that could conflict with the President's foreign policy". "OMB's assertions have no basis in law".

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.



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