The Government Accountability Office, an agency tasked with watchdog duties over all aspects of the federal government, released a report on Thursday stating that the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld hundreds of millions of dollars from Ukraine in 2019.
GAO found that the Office of Management and Budget violated the Impoundment Control Act in refusing to release nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine to help it defend itself from encroachments by Russia on its eastern border.
The agency recognized that the decision to withhold the money came about for a “policy reason” but nevertheless held that the choice to do so was in violation of federal statutes.
“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 withholding was not a programmatic delay,” the report from GAO read.
OMB’s decision to withhold the money came from a direct order by President Donald Trump, the New York Times noted.
Withholding the aid money to Ukraine is a main aspect of the articles of impeachment that the House voted to pass last month. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi agreed to pass those articles onto the Senate this past week, without assurances that witnesses or new evidence would be allowed to be submitted by House managers during the impeachment trial.
NEW: Speaker Nancy Pelosi on GAO report finding Trump administration's hold on security assistance to Ukraine was illegal: "This reinforces again the need for documents and eye-witnesses in the Senate." https://t.co/ubGAMIuJBF pic.twitter.com/Yry3lkGGQa
— ABC News (@ABC) January 16, 2020
After the report was released, Pelosi argued at a press briefing that the GAO’s findings proved the need for witnesses to be heard.
“The GAO confirmed that the president’s actions at the center of our impeachment articles, withholding congressionally approved military aid from Ukraine, was illegal,” Pelosi explained.
Later, she added, “This reinforces again the need for documents and eye-witnesses in the Senate.”