Thursday, January 16, 2020

The White House Broke The Law By Freezing Ukraine Aid, Watchdog Says
Administration officials on Thursday were quick to point out that GAO is an arm of Congress and the administration is not bound by any of its findings. A senior administration official on Thursday called GAO’s decision “a pretty clear overreach as they attempt to insert themselves into the media’s controversy of the day.”

“We disagree with GAO’s opinion,” OMB Spokesperson Rachel Semmel said in a statement to TIME. “OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law.”

But recently released internal government emails, as well as transcripts of closed-door depositions and interviews with TIME, show that both Pentagon and OMB officials became increasingly concerned that what they were being asked to do could violate this very law. The Impoundment Control Act of 1974 requires the executive branch to spend money as appropriated by Congress.

Under that law, the President “has narrow, limited authority to withhold appropriations,” GAO General Counsel Thomas Armstrong said in a statement on Thursday.

The White House budget office told GAO that it withheld the funds to ensure that they were not spent “in a manner that could conflict with the President’s foreign policy.” The law does not permit OMB to withhold funds for policy reasons,” Armstrong concluded.

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