(CNSNews.com) - On June 18, 2019, the Defense Department announced plans “to provide $250 million to Ukraine in security cooperation funds for additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts to build the capacity of Ukraine’s armed forces."
But those congressionally-approved funds did not flow until Sept. 11, almost three months later. The big question in Washington is "why"?
On Thursday, the Government Accountability Office, an agency that works for Congress, released a report concluding that the Office of Management and Budget violated the law in withholding the money.
The GAO said in part:
Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law. OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the (1974) Impoundment Control Act (ICA). The withholding was not a programmatic delay. Therefore, we conclude that OMB violated the ICA.
"The OMB -- the White House, the administration -- broke, I'm saying it, broke the law," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a news conference on Thursday.
"This reinforces, again, the need for documents and eyewitnesses in the Senate," she said.
Democrats say Trump was using the Ukraine aid as leverage to force political favors from Ukraine's new president, including the announcement of an investigation into Hunter and Joe Biden's Ukraine dealings. That announcement never happened, nor did the investigations.
President Trump, in one of his many tweets on the subject, said, "As the President of the United States, I have an absolute right, perhaps even a duty, to investigate, or have investigated, CORRUPTION, and that would include asking, or suggesting, other Countries to help us out!"
In late September, shortly after the aid was released, Trump said: "The [Ukraine] funds were paid, fully paid, but my complaint has always been, and I’d withhold again and I’ll continue to withhold, until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine.”
In remarks at the United Nations on Sept. 23, Trump said: "It’s very important to talk about corruption. If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?”
The president has steadfastly denied pressuring the Ukraine president to do certain investigations, including one into the Bidens, in exchange for the security assistance and a White House visit.
But Democrats have impeached Trump for abuse of power (allegedly using security aid to force political favors from Ukraine) and obstruction of Congress (refusing to hand over witnesses and documents). However, the articles of impeachment allege no law-breaking by the president.
According to the GAO finding: "An appropriations act is a law like any other; therefore, unless Congress has enacted a law providing otherwise, the President must take care to ensure that appropriations are prudently obligated during their period of availability....In fact, Congress was concerned about the failure to prudently obligate according to its Congressional prerogatives when it enacted and later amended the ICA."
The GAO said there was "no external factor causing an unavoidable delay. Rather, OMB on its own volition explicitly barred DOD from obligating amounts."