WASHINGTON—The Trump administration didn't have the legal authority to hold millions in security assistance to Ukraine this summer, Congress's nonpartisan watchdog found, adding more scrutiny to the funding freeze that led to the impeachment of President Trump.
In its opinion Thursday, the Government Accountability Office wrote that the Office of Management and Budget improperly froze the money for policy reasons.
"Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law," GAO wrote.
The Office of Management and Budget has repeatedly defended the legality of the hold, arguing that it was necessary to allow the administration to review the security assistance. In a letter to GAO in December, Mark Paoletta, OMB's general counsel, said that the administration had the legal authority to hold the funds, which were released in mid-September.
"We disagree with GAO's opinion. OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President's priorities and with the law," Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for OMB, said in a statement.
Mr. Trump and members of the administration have said that the hold was in place because of concerns about corruption in Ukraine and questions about how much money other countries were contributing to Ukraine, which is battling pro-Russian forces. The Defense Department had previously certified that Ukraine had taken sufficient steps toward combating corruption to receive the funds.Democrats, in their impeachment investigation, charged that Mr. Trump froze the aid as part of his effort to pressure Ukraine to open investigations that would benefit him politically.
The Democratic-controlled House passed two articles of impeachment, one focused on abuse of power and the other on obstructing Congress, in December. The GOP-led Senate, which is expected to acquit Mr. Trump of the charges, will soon begin considering them.
Wall Street Journal, January 16, 2020 10:15 am.
January 16, 2020
Voices4America Post Script. Breaking news! The Government Accountability Office #GAO found that Trump using Congressionally authorized funds for his own purposes toward #Ukraine was a crime. Make sure your Senator knows.