Just before the official start of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday that the White House had broken federal law by withholding over $200 million in military aid for Ukraine, as Democrats said the new findings should be aired before the Senate in coming days.
"Faithful executive of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law," wrote Thomas Armstrong, the General Counsel of the GAO.
Democrats immediately latched on to the government watchdog opinion to reinforce their impeachment arguments.
"This is an important ruling that deserves a thorough hearing in the impeachment trial," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) on the floor of the Senate.
"GAO confirmed the President broke the law," said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.
Press statement regarding GAO Decision B-331564, Office of Management and Budget—Withholding of Ukraine Security Assistance https://t.co/SxlSeGfy5l— U.S. GAO (@USGAO) January 16, 2020
Breaking: GAO concludes that “OMB withheld the funds from obligation for an unauthorized reason in violation of the ICA.1 See 2 U.S.C. § 684. We also question actions regarding funds appropriated to the Department of State (State) for security assistance to Ukraine.” pic.twitter.com/CdUWpFK8kd— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) January 16, 2020
"When President Trump froze congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine, he did so in violation of the law and the Constitution," said Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT).
"The GAO has confirmed what we’ve always known: President Trump abused his power," said Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME). "Another fact for the Senate to consider."
"The hold Trump ordered was illegal," said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA).
The law in question is known as the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974," which was passed after President Nixon had refused to release money approved by Congress.
"The administration broke the law," Speaker Pelosi says after a federal watchdog revealed that the White House violated the law by freezing U.S. military aid pic.twitter.com/GJC8L5NAIV— QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) January 16, 2020