By ANDREW TAYLOR and ZEKE MILLER
WASHINGTON (AP) – The White House has violated federal law by withholding security assistance to Ukraine, an action at the center of President Donald Trump’s accusation, a federal watchdog agency said Thursday.
The Government Office of the Government said in a report that the Bureau of Management and Budget is breaking the law by holding on to the support that Congress adopted less than a year ago, saying: “The President has no authority to ignore or change duly established law. “
The aid in question was suspended by order of Trump last summer, but was released in September after Congress called for the release and a whistleblower complaint about Trump’s call to the Ukrainian leader was made public in July.
The independent agency, reporting to Congress, said OMB has violated the seizure law by postponing the security assistance that Congress has approved for Ukraine for “policy reasons” rather than technical budgetary needs.
“Faithful implementation of the law does not allow the president to replace his own policy priorities with those established by Congress in the law,” wrote the bureau’s general counsel, Thomas Armstrong, in the report.
Capitol Hill Democrats have seized the report as evidence of a lawless White House. led by acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, a key figure in Trump’s deposition investigation. He is still officially the OMB director.
“The OMB, the White House, the administration has broken the law – I say this – has broken the law,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“Congress is making financing decisions and the illegal seizure of the Trump administration of these vital national security funds was a brutal attack on the checks and balances inherent in our democracy,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman, Nita Lowey, DN.Y . “Since this illegal behavior threatened our security and undermined our elections, I believe even more strongly that Parliament has chosen the right course by blaming President Trump. No one is above the law. “
OMB has argued that it was more than appropriate and necessary.
“We disagree with GAO’s opinion. OMB uses its distribution key to ensure that the taxpayer is spent correctly in accordance with the president’s priorities and with the law,” said OMB spokeswoman Rachel Semmel.
Trump was charged last month with an allegation of abuse of his power to press Ukraine to investigate democratic rivals, withholding aid, and with obstructing the subsequent Congress probe. The senate starts its trial on Thursday.
The GAO conclusion concludes that the White House budget office “withheld the funds for an unauthorized reason in violation of the law,” a federal law requiring the executive to spend money appropriated by Congress.
The law on seizure is strictly adhered to by career officials in the agency’s budgetary offices, who may experience serious difficulties in violating it.