GAO Declares Trump’s Action On Ukraine Aid To Be Unlawful

The General Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report declaring that President Donald Trump violated the law when he withheld military aid from Ukraine. The GAO, which is a nonpartisan arm of Congress, declared in the eight-page report that “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.” While the report’s release triggered the familiar bombshell headlines, there was considerable exaggeration of its findings. This is less relevant to impeachment than might initially appear. This was a finding of the violation of a federal law due to the delay. It would still be a violation even if the President was solely acting in the public interest to combat corruption or guarantee support from our allies. In other words, that violation is not on its face an impeachable act. Indeed, other presidents have been found to have committed such violations.

At issue is the Impoundment Control Act. Enacted in 1974, the law was passed after Richard Nixon withheld funds for programs that he opposed or wanted to block for political reasons.

As I previously testified at the impeachment hearing, it would be highly improper to withhold funds for political purposes and a violation of this Act. You just have to prove it, which is why I strongly encourage the House to simply wait a couple months to complete this record. If it had, it could have pursued this and other developments before surrendering control of the case to the opposing party.

Notably, the OMB suggests that, even if withheld for a policy reason, this was not a policy that is allowed under the Act as a bar on dedicating such funds: “OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act.”

The GAO has no real authority other than declaring such violations. Other presidents, including Bill Clinton, have been found to be in such violations by the GAO. These other presidents were also found to have caused “nonprogrammatic delays.” The GAO also found President Barack Obama violated federal law on such funds.

The aid was released before the deadline at the end of September but there is no question that a series of holds were placed on the aid. The White House claims that it wanted to confirm facts about corruption in Ukraine as well as to put pressure on allies to give more funding. If one accepts that the White House did act for such non-political purposes, it is still possible to be in violation of the Act but it would not be a violation that constitutes an impeachable offense — any more than it was for prior presidents like Clinton. The fact that this was not a “programmatic” issues is why it was found to violate the Act — not because of a finding of a quid pro quo.

There have been prior disagreements over the payment of funds — holds that have run afoul of the statute. The relevant question remains the same. It is not whether the White House was faithful to the wording of the Act. As I have previously written, I do not believe these actions were consistent. The question is whether the violation in the temporary hold on the funds constitutes a high crime and misdemeanor. This report does not materially change that status quo on that question. Trump is not being impeached for a “nonprogrammatic delay” in funding.

Nevertheless, the GAO is a rightfully respected organization and the report highlights that tenuous basis for this hold in light of the clear import of the Impoundment Act. The Act was created precisely to avoid this type of ad hoc hold on funds by a president. Moreover, there was no conferral with Congress as required under the Act, so there could be an arguable violation (though there are good arguments that it is not a violation). I do not view this as a political move by the GAO and it is certainly a finding that the Senate consider as a type of “judicial notice” of a public fact. It does not however answer the question still looming before the Senate.

189 thoughts on “GAO Declares Trump’s Action On Ukraine Aid To Be Unlawful”

  1. Yesterday’s Development:

    Ambassador Yovanovitch Was Monitored..

    By Guiliani Associate Lev Parnas and ‘Mr Hyde’

    Lev Parnas is one of those 2 Soviet-born money bundlers that accompanied Rudy Guiliani throughout Europe. Parnas has begun to talk about his activities with Guiliani and none of it sounds good.

    Parnas’ activities included illegal surveillance of U.S. Ambassafor to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Parnas was actually in Kiev with a former U.S. Marine named Robert Hyde, an obscure Republican candidate for Congress in Connecticut.

    Hyde’s name is sure to become familiar to those following the impeachment saga. Hyde, by all accounts, is an eccentric character on the fringes of politics. Yet he has spent time with Trump at Mar A Lago and has had breakfast at the White House.

      1. We are breathlessly waiting for your other go-go news source

        Tehran Times


            1. From above NBC story:

              Hyde has run into legal trouble in the past, having his guns taken away in June because of a protection order against him, The Associated Press reported. In June, police responded to a complaint from a local church saying that Hyde was attending services and took videos of himself in and around the church to use for political campaign purposes, posting them on social media. The church requested that police ask Hyde not to return.

              A former Marine, Hyde began donating to Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee in Sept. 2016, sometimes writing multiple checks a day.

              The donations appear to have gotten him entry into Trump’s orbit. He has tweeted pictures and videos with the president at various events and posted pictures with the president’s adult children and various other Trump associates.

    1. why do you keep saying “Soviet born”? Anybody that age from Ukraine is “Soviet born.”

      is there some point to that?


    While Pelosi frolics with her pals and giving expensive pens with her name engraved on them, her district could use some money to supply the district with clean syringes and poop shovels

    San Francisco Spends $30 Million Cleaning Feces, Drug Needles

    Until the problem is fixed, Mohammed Nuru, the Director of the Public Works Department, is charged with the towering task of cleaning the streets, over and over again. “Yes, we can clean, he said, “and then go back a few hours later, and it looks as if it was never cleaned. So is that how you want to spend your money?”

    The 2016-2017 budget for San Francisco Public Works includes $60.1 million for “Street Environmental Services.” The budget has nearly doubled over the past five years. Originally, that money, was intended to clean streets, not sidewalks. According to city ordinances, sidewalks are the responsibility of property owners. However, due to the severity of the contamination in San Francisco, Public Works has inherited the problem of washing sidewalks. Nuru estimates that half of his street cleaning budget – about $30 million – goes towards cleaning up feces and needles from homeless encampments and sidewalks.

    ‘Human Tragedy’ in San Francisco

    A single pile of human waste, said Nuru, takes at least 30 minutes for one of his staffers to clean. “The steamer has to come. He has to park the steamer. He’s got to come out with his steamer, disinfect, steam clean, roll up and go.”

    Asked if he’d be willing to give up part of his budget and allocate it to more directly addressing the homeless problem – which would likely alleviate his cleaning problem – Nuru said, “The Board of Supervisors, the mayor – those are decisions that they need to make.”  He added, “I want to continue cleaning and I want to be able to continue to provide services. The Public Works Department provides services seven days a week, 24 hours a day.”

    Ronen acknowledges that finding the money to provide 1,000 additional beds for the homeless may very well take years. The city is planning on opening three new Navigation Centers for homeless people by the summer, but two centers will also be closing.

    nbcbayarea news

  3. This declaration should have been made quickly during the hold-up of Ukrainian aid. Delaying it until after-the-fact weakens the assertion of this law.


    he made $850,000 and didn’t even deliver on certain implied expectations! lol

    “Biden never visited Ukraine for company business during that time, according to three of the people.”



    Documents and testimony released during and after House impeachment hearings revealed some administration officials had raised concerns that the Ukraine hold might have violated the law known as the Impoundment Control Act.

    The law further designates the ways in which Congress has the power of the purse. Under the Impoundment Control Act, it is illegal for OMB to withhold money that has been appropriated by Congress and signed into law.

    If the White House wants to delay or deny funds, it must first alert Congress.

    In a letter to GAO in December, OMB lawyer Paoletta argued that the holdup of the Ukraine aid was a simply a “programmatic delay” and therefore did not require prior notice to Congress.

    Paoletta also argued that the Defense Department’s general counsel never told his office that it would have any problems spending the money before the funds expired at the end of the fiscal year in September.

    However, national security online forum Just Security reported in early January that Defense Department emails showed repeated warnings from the department to OMB that the delays put its ability to distribute the aid at risk.

    Edited from: “Trump Broke The Law In Freezing Ukraine Funds, Watchdog Report Concludes”

    Today’s NPR

    Professor Turley attempts to frame the delay of military aid to Ukraine as a ‘good faith attempt by Trump’ to investigate Hunter Biden. It was no such thing!

    The truth is that Trump was warned by his own staffers that holding up the aid would be a serious problem. Officials at the Pentagon noticed the hold-up right away and wanted answers. Trump was obliged at that point to notify Congress with explanations for the hold-up. This was simply a case where Trump did what he felt like doing without any regard to proper procedure.

  6. It amazes me what a complete job Fox News has done of indoctrinating Trumpsters to disbelieve any facts or sources of facts that make Trump look bad and to attack the source as being biased, wrong or having an agenda. Just look at these comments today. Trumpsters refuse to believe that that it is against the law for Trump to withhold the aid, which is all that this report states. They attack the GAO for doing the job it was commissioned to do, solely because it said Trump was wrong.

    Turley says: “The White House claims that it wanted to confirm facts about corruption in Ukraine as well as to put pressure on allies to give more funding. If one accepts that the White House did act for such non-political purposes, it is still possible to be in violation of the Act but it would not be a violation that constitutes an impeachable offense.” Problem with this line of thinking is that Trump said he withheld the aid in order to pressure Ukraine to announce it was investigating the Bidens for corruption. Also, the US withholding aid did not work to pressure allies to pay more. Then, there’s the inconvenient fact that Ukraine was in desperate need of the aid because of Russia’s military aggression, plus Trump’s public deference to Putin and advocacy on his behalf. Trump also tried to get Russia back into the G-7, and has done everything he can to praise Putin and to help Russia. Russia hackers got into the computer systems of Burisma, and you have to wonder whether it is to either delete or plant information helpful to Trump. And then, there’s the fact that his campaign fed polling information to Russian hackers about the most-effective way to smear Hillary Clinton in key states that could swing the Electoral College.

    Ukraine is an ally. Russia is not, except to Trump. His withholding of aid when Ukraine was in hot conflict with Russia helped Russia because Ukraine was forced to cede control of certain territory because it didn’t have the military arms and materiel to fight back because Trump held up the aid. Russia also likes to stir up political factions, like what is happening here in the US. They have an ideal stooge for this operation: a malignant narcissist who is no patriot, who doesn’t know much about how government works, who won’t listen to more knowledgeable people, who has a desperate need to feel important and to receive praise, and who has bankrupted several companies and needs money.

    1. your shortsighted characterization of this omits the larger context of the foreign policy initiative which endeavored to expand US influence into Ukraine in the first place. I expect that you don’t understand, so let somebody else try

      this is an old article by the way take a look at the date and it all came before Trump took the edge off US mischief there–20160530-snap-story.html

      MAY 30, 2016 5 AM
      Moscow solidified its hold on Crimea in April, outlawing the Tatar legislature that had opposed Russia’s annexation of the region since 2014. Together with Russian military provocations against NATO forces in and around the Baltic, this move seems to validate the observations of Western analysts who argue that under Vladimir Putin, an increasingly aggressive Russia is determined to dominate its neighbors and menace Europe.

      Leaders in Moscow, however, tell a different story. For them, Russia is the aggrieved party. They claim the United States has failed to uphold a promise that NATO would not expand into Eastern Europe, a deal made during the 1990 negotiations between the West and the Soviet Union over German unification. In this view, Russia is being forced to forestall NATO’s eastward march as a matter of self-defense.

      The West has vigorously protested that no such deal was ever struck. However, hundreds of memos, meeting minutes and transcripts from U.S. archives indicate otherwise. Although what the documents reveal isn’t enough to make Putin a saint, it suggests that the diagnosis of Russian predation isn’t entirely fair. Europe’s stability may depend just as much on the West’s willingness to reassure Russia about NATO’s limits as on deterring Moscow’s adventurism.

      After the Berlin Wall fell, Europe’s regional order hinged on the question of whether a reunified Germany would be aligned with the United States (and NATO), the Soviet Union (and the Warsaw Pact) or neither. Policymakers in the George H.W. Bush administration decided in early 1990 that NATO should include the reconstituted German republic.

      In early February 1990, U.S. leaders made the Soviets an offer. According to transcripts of meetings in Moscow on Feb. 9, then-Secretary of State James Baker suggested that in exchange for cooperation on Germany, U.S. could make “iron-clad guarantees” that NATO would not expand “one inch eastward.” Less than a week later, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to begin reunification talks. No formal deal was struck, but from all the evidence, the quid pro quo was clear: Gorbachev acceded to Germany’s western alignment and the U.S. would limit NATO’s expansion.

      Nevertheless, great powers rarely tie their own hands. In internal memorandums and notes, U.S. policymakers soon realized that ruling out NATO’s expansion might not be in the best interests of the United States. By late February, Bush and his advisers had decided to leave the door open.

      After discussing the issue with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on February 24-25, the U.S. gave the former East Germany “special military status,” limiting what NATO forces could be stationed there in deference to the Soviet Union. Beyond that, however, talk of proscribing NATO’s reach dropped out of the diplomatic conversation. Indeed, by March 1990, State Department officials were advising Baker that NATO could help organize Eastern Europe in the U.S. orbit; by October, U.S. policymakers were contemplating whether and when (as a National Security Council memo put it) to “signal to the new democracies of Eastern Europe NATO’s readiness to contemplate their future membership.”

      At the same time, however, it appears the Americans still were trying to convince the Russians that their concerns about NATO would be respected. Baker pledged in Moscow on May 18, 1990, that the United States would cooperate with the Soviet Union in the “development of a new Europe.” And in June, per talking points prepared by the NSC, Bush was telling Soviet leaders that the United States sought “a new, inclusive Europe.”

      It’s therefore not surprising that Russia was incensed when Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Baltic states and others were ushered into NATO membership starting in the mid-1990s. Boris Yeltsin, Dmitry Medvedev and Gorbachev himself protested through both public and private channels that U.S. leaders had violated the non-expansion arrangement. As NATO began looking even further eastward, to Ukraine and Georgia, protests turned to outright aggression and saber-rattling.

      NATO’S widening umbrella doesn’t justify Putin’s bellicosity or his incursions in Ukraine or Georgia. Still, the evidence suggests that Russia’s protests have merit and that U.S. policy has contributed to current tensions in Europe.

      In less than two months, Western heads of state will gather in Warsaw for a NATO summit. Discussions will undoubtedly focus on efforts to contain and deter Russian adventurism — including increasing NATO deployments in Eastern Europe and deepening NATO’s ties to Ukraine and Georgia. Such moves, however, will only reinforce the Russian narrative of U.S. duplicity. Instead, addressing a major source of Russian anxieties by taking future NATO expansion off the table could help dampen Russia-Western hostilities.

      Just as a pledge not to expand NATO in 1990 helped end the Cold War, so too may a pledge today help resuscitate the U.S.-Russian relationship.

      Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson is an international security fellow at Dartmouth College and assistant professor at the Bush School of Government, Texas A&M University. His article, “Deal or No Deal? The End of the Cold War and the U.S. Offer to Limit NATO Expansion” was published in the spring issue of International Security.

    2. Are you okay? Here was the Timeline for anti-corruption is quite clear.

      Aug. 29: Zelensky started anti-corruption reforms.

      Sept. 3: The Ukrainian parliament passed anti-corruption legislation.

      Sept. 11: Zelensky signed that reform.

      Sept. 11: Aid released!

      GAO is dead wrong! Someone over there needs to check their facts!

      P.S: Mueller report is out. Exact Quote of Pg:10
      “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

      P.S.S Don’t talk to us about believing anything. You fell for Russian collusion hoax, Jussie Smollett hoax. Covington hoax, Carter Page wans’t a Russian puppet he was actually CIA and they DID lie to a FISA court to spy on innocent Americans and doctored exculpatory evidence and now the Ukrainian hoax. Once this impeachment sham is shown to be the joke it is, they’ll be back to RUSSIAAAAAAAAAA!!

      1. Harley, your timeline starts in late August. The real events began about 2 months earlier, before Zelensky even took office.

    3. Ukraine is an ally. Russia is not, except to Trump. His withholding of aid when Ukraine was in hot conflict with Russia helped Russia because Ukraine was forced to cede control of certain territory because it didn’t have the military arms and materiel to fight back because Trump held up the aid.

      None of this is fact. Its just another phony story.

      The OMB has testified that the allocation of the aid money was delayed but the actual preparation of the aid was allowed to proceed on schedule. I haven’t seen evidence that the delivery of the aid was delayed.
      As for the Ukraine ceding territory, this is a civil war Eastern Ukraine is fighting with Western Ukraine. Russia is backing the east and the US is backing the west. This is similar to civil strife from WW2 when the Nazis sided with the west and the Russian were aligned with the east.

  7. Since they are employees of the Executive Branch first their recourse is to carry out the orders while asking an outside agency to seek a change in the courts. Now what was the excuse of the left when they did much the same thing or worse?

    1. “The aid was released before the deadline at the end of September…”
      The deadline for allocating aid was months earlier.
      The end of Sept is the end of the fiscal year. If the money was not allocated by Sept 31 it had to be returned to the general fund as the law that enabled it would have expired.

  8. Does this mean that the allegations that Hunter Biden was corrupt is no longer relevant

    1. Hunter is off the hook until after the Senate trial. He’ll get his own show later. It will be fun, but not for him and daddy.

  9. “The question is whether the violation in the temporary hold on the funds constitutes a high crime and misdemeanor.”

    That is the problem. It is a little more than annoying that the White House violated the Act. It is a legitimate concern. But impeachment? It’s laughable.

    The Democrats may have been able to score some political hits on this if they had behaved reasonably. But alas, not so.

    1. SteveJ

      Trump can avoid responsibility by appealing all the way to the SCOTUS – and as soon as Brett sobers up, he, Neil, and the other “protectors of power” will find something in their microscope to justify granting absolution to Herr Drumpf.

  10. “The GAO, which is a nonpartisan arm of Congress,”
    There’s no such thing in Washington, D.C.

    1. The experienced patriotic professionals in the “deep state” are what is now saving the US from complete disaster at the hands of El Presidente.

      1. malingerers and saboteurs who should be arrested for their foot dragging and backstabbing

      2. While you whistle past the graveyard…

        Because no one dared speak publicly, progressives had assumed their education and mainstream media “mocking” of traditional values had turned America progressive and now Donald Trump had proven they had not. Now with Mr. Trump in office, the last hope to contain the effects could only be by the expert bureaucracy that was the original faith of progressive scientific administration to produce the good welfare state. Rather than the elected president representing the people, salvation must now come from the permanent government. In the wake of the impeachment, there was a Post op-ed headline actually arguing publicly that “Bureaucratic resistance is what the Founders intended.” Another piece by the celebrated intellectual Francis Fukuyama in The Wall Street Journal argued directly that “American liberty depends on the ‘deep state.’’’

        It took Attorney General William Barr to bring some historical perspective to this development when he was asked about intelligence agencies’ reported involvement in the 2016 election.[9] He replied this should be carefully investigated because if it were true it would be a “serious red line” being crossed into becoming a threat to representative government. He recalled that ancient Rome’s Praetorian Guard began as “a protector of government and ended very arrogant,” identifying “the national interest with their own political preferences,” feeling that “anyone who has a different opinion” is somehow “an enemy of the state,” an arrogance leading ultimately to taking power from the lawful chief executive.

    2. Paul, ‘Deep State’ is basically 60% of America. Funny how language can be used to dismiss that many people.

      1. ‘Deep State’ is basically 60% of America.

        Speaking of funny how language… Provide the citation for that claim. And no, using the word basically does not absolve you of providing the citation.

          1. That’s it? What a coincidence, your 60% of the country cannot name the 3 branches of government; the 40% that approve of Trump can.

            What other statistical nonsense are you going to blurt out?

      2. false, it is the entrenched bureaucracy in the powerful core agencies

        the concept came from the “Deep State” which exists in Turkey, the derin devlet

        arguably the concept could apply to any modern state with a bureaucratic core

        and you should admit that if America has one, the CIA is at the top of it. and CIA’s got it in for Donald or at least the last capo Brennan and his minions do

    1. inter agency conflict is one of the mileposts on the way to Civil War

      major candidate paid staff organizers talking openly about revolutions and executions is a milepost too

      Virginia may be where it goes hot, soon. the Democrat governor there says law abiding gun owners have created a situation which is a state of emergency. that’s because they dare to assemble and peittion for redress of grievances as the first amendment guarantees. off course that’s related to the second amendment. we may yet get an object lesson, who knows?

  11. Turley just wants “more evidence” to prove Trump’s extortion of Ukraine. He testified:
    “I strongly encourage the House to simply wait a couple months to complete this record. If it had, it could have pursued this and other developments before surrendering control of the case to the opposing party.”

    But if the House had pursued forcing reluctant witnesses to testify, the country would be facing months of delays while the subpoena enforcement cases wended their way through the federal courts up to the Supreme Court. By then we would be close to the November election – or beyond it.

    There was and is plenty of evidence that proves Trump acted illegally in withholding the approved military aid to the Ukraine. I don’t know why Turley keeps repeating that more is needed.

    1. Turdly answered your question. You just don’t agree with his answer. Trump likely broke the law, but maybe he didn’t. Regardless its not grounds for removal. Especially if the Senate is Republican in the Impeachment process which is by design partisan. The reason it was designed to be partisan is that only the most horrific of offenses were to be the reasons for removal. Like bribery and treason. Offenses that all parties would agree as cause. Otherwise the scoundrel was to be judged by the electorate. In 10 months you can remove Trump at the ballot box.

      1. Bob, Trump was pressuring Zelenksky to parrot Putin lies. That’s borderline treason. Trump was essentially siding with Russia against an aspiring NATO partner.

        1. Trump was pressuring Zelenksky to parrot Putin lies.

          Once again, provide the evidence for your claim.

          That’s borderline treason. Trump was essentially siding with Russia against an aspiring NATO partner.

          You’re a borderline traitor by essentially siding with the treasonous deep state and their Ukrainian oligarchs, that have essentially undermined President Zelensky’s efforts to rid this aspiring NATO partner of corruption from the likes of Burisma.

          1. Peter has it all wrong. It was a COCKatoo not any ordinary parrot, plus Peter has a thing for Russians…. big musckly oily ones

          2. Olly, Trump was pressuring Zelenksky to ‘admit’ that DNC emails were hacked from Ukraine. There was no truth to that. That was a Putin lie!

            1. There was no truth to that.

              Correct. Trump was not pressuring Zelensky to ‘admit’ that. Now if you’re done being a hand-puppet for Schiff, provide evidence to the contrary.

    2. If the House had pursued “forcing reluctant witnesses to testify” … you mean if they had not WITHDRAWN the subpoenas they issued and which were being challenged and they were waiting for the judge’s ruling. You see … the House knew what you apparently don’t, they weren’t getting those witnesses. Prof. Turley also knows what you don’t: there isn’t evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors.

  12. I was under the impression that the GAO’s job was to undertake performance audits at the request of committees of Congress. Since when are they issuing legal opinions? Did you ask yourself that, professor?

    1. GAO does offer opinions … but an agency opinion (while given respect) is non-binding on a court … further, breaking a law (like they said happened in this case) is not the same as having committed a crime. Crimes must be so designated by the statute creating them.

  13. And the GAO enacts or legislates what laws. This is just another bureaucrats doing what legislators should be doing. And the GAO is involved with State Department issues.

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