On Thursday, the Government Accountability Office issued its report on the White House temporarily freezing U.S. security aid allocated for Ukraine, concluding that President Trump violated the Impoundment Control Act by “substitut[ing] his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.” Trump responded Friday morning by tweeting out a quote from Harvard Law’s Alan Dershowitz, who argues that the GAO has it “exactly backwards.”
“The [GAO] got it exactly backwards,” Trump tweeted, quoting Dershowitz, a self-described liberal who has frequently defended Trump over the course of his presidency. “Here’s what they said. The law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities to those Congress has enacted into law. It’s exactly the opposite. The Constitution does not allow Congress to substitute its own priorities for the foreign policies of the President.”
….for the foreign policies of the President.” @AlanDersh Alan Dershowitz @seanhannity @FoxNews They do what the House asks. The Swamp!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2020
As The Daily Wire reported Thursday, the GAO issued its conclusions on the legality of the White House withholding the aid to Ukraine in an alleged attempt to “pressure” the government to conduct investigations into alleged Ukrainian corruption, particularly involving Joe and Hunter 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 8-page report signed by General Counsel Thomas H. Armstrong, states in its overview. “OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act (ICA). The withholding was not a programmatic delay. Therefore, we conclude that OMB violated the ICA.”
“In the summer of 2019, OMB withheld from obligation approximately $214 million appropriated to DOD for security assistance to Ukraine,” the GAO’s “decision” section outlines. “OMB withheld amounts by issuing a series of nine apportionment schedules with footnotes that made all unobligated balances for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) unavailable for obligation. … As explained below, we conclude 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.”
“At issue in this decision is whether OMB had authority to withhold the USAI funds from obligation,” Armstrong explains in the “discussion” section of the report. “The Constitution specifically vests Congress with the power of the purse, providing that ‘No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.’ U.S. Const. art. I, § 9, cl. 7. The Constitution also vests all legislative powers in Congress and sets forth the procedures of bicameralism and presentment, through which the President may accept or veto a bill passed by both Houses of Congress, and Congress may subsequently override a presidential veto. Id., art. I, § 7, cl. 2, 3. The President is not vested with the power to ignore or amend any such duly enacted law.”
The report concludes by urging the OMB and the State Department to “provide the information we need to fulfill our duties under the ICA regarding potential impoundments of FMF funds.”
“We will continue to pursue this matter and will provide our decision to the Congress after we have received the necessary information,” Armstrong stresses. “We consider a reluctance to provide a fulsome response to have constitutional significance.”