There has been a lot of politicking on either political side about the ‘legality’ of Trump’s actions. However, a recent statement from the Government Accounting Office has noted that President Trump broke the law by ignoring Congress:
The White House budget office violated the law when it froze U.S. military aid to Ukraine, the Government Accountability Office concluded in a new report.
President Donald Trump ordered the hold on the critical security assistance in July, a slew of senior White House officials testified to House impeachment investigators late last year. It was a move that coincided with an effort by the president and his allies to pressure Ukraine to investigate Trump’s Democratic rivals.
“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 wrote in an eight-page report released on Thursday.
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Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid, which he reversed in September after House investigators began probing the move, is at the heart of the articles of impeachment the House passed last month, and it will be a central focus in the Senate’s impeachment trial that begins later Thursday.
The report undercuts an oft-stated defense of Trump’s decision to hold the aid back: that it was a lawful exercise of the president’s authority.
“I have never seen such a damning report in my life,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I mean, this is a nonpartisan thing. I read it twice. … To have something saying this is such a total disrespect of the law. It’s unprecedented.”
Leahy said the conclusion “screams” for the need to force impeachment testimony from White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said it “reinforces, again, the need for documents and eye witnesses in the Senate. You see this more and more and more in all of this — this tangled web to deceive that the administration is engaged in.”
But Republicans were unmoved by the findings, either claiming that they haven’t read GAO’s analysis or that it doesn’t mean much for the Senate impeachment trial.
“I wouldn’t think that a GAO opinion, per se, would change anything,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). “But we’ll listen to it, we’ll look at it and we’ll evaluate it.“
“I don’t think they should be deciding who broke the law,” he added.
GAO, an independent nonpartisan government watchdog that responds to congressional requests, said the White House attempted to justify its decision not to notify Congress of the hold by claiming it was simply a “programmatic delay.” But GAO rejected that claim, saying Trump’s decision, carried out by the budget office, was a violation of the Impoundment Control Act, which requires notification to Congress of any such delay in an appropriation of funds.
“OMB’s assertions have no basis in law,” the GAO argues, referring to the White House Office of Management and Budget. (source)
This incident is actually a serious thing. This is not a matter of if the GAO is ‘taken over by liberals’ or ‘Trump haters’, but a question of legal integrity- did he or did he not violate a law -and the answer is that he was found to have violated a major one.
I have noted that so far, President Trump’s re-election prospects are for all general purposes guaranteed unless there is a major event that changes things.
I am not saying that this even has changed Trump’s electability status yet. However, this is probably the most legitimate and serious accusation brought against him yet. While it is true that Democrat politicians have pursued him unjustly in certain contexts, there are claims- such as collaboration with Russia -that are based on legitimate evidence but possess enough plausible deniability for the current time that a serious matter has been reduced to political infighting. But this incident with the GAO is likely an impeachable offense that could result in further actions.
It is likely that this will happen? No, it is not. However, of all of the charges brought against him and the practical consequences where something could happen, this is the most likely to cause a potentially serious issue.
Trump is still likely to win. The Democrat party is presenting, seemingly intentionally so, miserable candidates with unclear platforms and strange personal pathologies that are distasteful to the average American voter to such an extreme that many may vote for Trump out of frustration and the sense of a lack of options.
It will be interesting if this incident bears actual consequences in the political realm.
And to those who say that the GAO report is ‘biased’, most GAO studies and reports are initiated by requests from members of Congress, including requests mandated in statute, and so reflect concerns of current political importance. They are known for frequent audits and investigative reports that have uncovered waste and inefficiency in government. News media often draw attention to the GAO’s work by publishing stories on the findings, conclusions and recommendations of its reports. Members of Congress also frequently cite the GAO’s work in statements to the press, congressional hearings, and floor debates on proposed legislation. They set the standards for audits of government organizations, programs, activities, and functions, and of government assistance received by contractors, nonprofit organizations, and other nongovernmental organizations.
The GAO is not a political football or an organ of the Presidency or Congress. It’s job is to report facts and figures. In the words of Jewish right-wing political commentator Ben Shapiro, “Facts don’t care about your feelings”, and neither does the GAO. The office does not have a political wing to favor, and while certainly people in the office have their views, the question of whether a law was violated or not in the context of standard audits whose principles apply to all is beyond party politics.
What is Trump going to do next? Accuse the GAO of ‘liberalism’ just like how he accused Christianity Today of being a ‘left-leaning’ magazine for expressing common public criticism of Trump’s actions? Given his actions and those of many of his supporters, who are inclined more to the temporary sentiments of passion rather than reason and in many ways are no different than the Democrats in this way, it is certainly possible.