With Donald Trump’s impeachment trial starting in the Senate, and lockstep Republicans claiming he “broke no laws,” the Government Accountability Office says he clearly violated federal law by withholding funds from Ukraine in a failed bribery attempt to force an investigation of Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden.
“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 decision says. “OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act.”
GAO is a federal, nonpartisan watchdog agency that reports directly to Congress.
The report, issued Thursday, will most-likely become a sticking point in what Senate Republicans hoped would be a quick impeachment trial that would clear Trump of the charges against him.
But at least three GOP Senators wanted witnesses called and additional testimony even before the GAO released it report today and Democratic senators agree.
“This bombshell legal opinion from the independent Government Accountability Office demonstrates, without a doubt, that the Trump administration illegally withheld security assistance from Ukraine” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who had requested GAO to issue the report in December.
“If the executive branch violates the [Impoundment Control Act] with impunity, then Congress loses its power to direct the expenditures of federal funds and any program authorized in law could be defunded by Executive fiat,” Van Hollen wrote Gene L. Dodaro, comptroller general of the GAO, in December.
“OMB was withholding the funds as part of an extortion scheme to pressure Ukraine,” Sam Berger, a former senior attorney at OMB during the Obama administration, told The Washington Post. “That’s illegal.”
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