Guess what, guys and gals?
The Trump administration violated federal law when it held up more than $200 billion in congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine last year as part of an (extremely) ill-advised scheme to forcibly enlist the fledgling Volodymyr Zelensky government in an effort to effectively rig the 2020 US election.
Shocking, we know, but as innocent as all of this is according to Trump and the GOP, the Government Accountability Office just doesn’t see it that way.
“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 nonpartisan GAO said Thursday, stating the obvious, in a report that Democrats are now citing as further evidence to support the case for surgically removing the cancer that’s currently metastasizing inside 1600 Penn.
The GAO charges that The Office of Management and Budget “withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act”.
Documents released last month by the Center for Public Integrity showed, among other things, that the OMB had misgivings about orchestrating a delay in the disbursement of the military aid.
The GAO probe was requested last month by Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, who on Thursday said the independent findings “reinforce the need for the Senate to obtain all relevant documents and hear from key fact witnesses in order to have a fair trial”.
This bombshell legal opinion from the independent @USGAO demonstrates, without a doubt, that the Trump Administration illegally withheld assistance from Ukraine and the public evidence shows that the president himself ordered this illegal act. pic.twitter.com/bkwyQ4Vk3K
— Senator Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) January 16, 2020
Mitch McConnell and the GOP decided this week to begin Trump’s Senate trial without witnesses. A determination on whether to hear testimony will be made after the House managers and Trump’s legal team have presented arguments.
The timing of the report’s release isn’t good for Republicans, coming as it did just hours ahead of the swearing in of senators in the trial. OMB is irritated. “We disagree with GAO’s opinion”, spokeswoman Rachel Semmel snapped. “OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law”.
Hours of public and closed-door testimony from witnesses in October and November backed up the contention that the Trump administration sought to withhold the aid pending the announcement by Ukraine of an investigation into Trump’s political rivals, including Joe Biden.
The Pentagon insists that national security wasn’t jeopardized, contrary to the accounts of at least a half-dozen of those who testified before the House. “The aid got out with no detriment to our national security”, DoD spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Thursday.
On Monday, CBS reported that the White House was expecting a handful of GOP senators to vote with Democrats when it comes to the debate around compelling testimony from those with relevant information. Their names are familiar – Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and Cory Gardner have all been mentioned as possibly amenable to the pleas of Democrats. Rand Paul and Lamar Alexander were also mentioned, with the former described as a “wild card” and the latter an “institutionalist”, by White House sources.
Democrats would need to sway just four Republicans to compel testimony, as a simple majority is all that’s needed. John Bolton announced this month that he would testify if called, although Trump suggested he’d invoke executive privilege.
As of lunchtime Thursday, Collins, Murkowski and Romney hadn’t yet read the GAO report.
Other GOP’ers told the media that on a quick skim – which is all they’re likely to give it – the report doesn’t change their minds. Because nothing will. They, like Trump’s base, are brainwashed. The Republican party is a personality cult.
Oh well. At least Trump is one helluva personality.