Trump administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid, GAO finds

Jan. 16 (UPI) — The Trump administration broke the law when it withheld Congress-approved aid for the Ukrainian military last year, the Government Accountability Office said in a report Thursday.

The eight-page report said the White House budget office violated the the federal Impoundment Control Act when it withheld $214 million in aid to Kiev — the very issue that’s the focus of the Senate’s impeachment trial against President Donald Trump.

The executive branch is prohibited by law from withholding, or “impounding,” funds appropriated by Congress from their stated purpose unless it provides a convincing reason for doing so, which the government watchdog said the Trump administration failed to provide.

The burden to justify withholding funds “rests with the executive branch,” the GAO said.

“Here, [the Office of Management and Budget] has failed to meet this burden. We conclude that OMB violated the [law] when it withheld [the] funds for a policy reason.”

Senior White House officials told House investigators last year Trump ordered the aid withheld in July, around the same time he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce Kiev was investigating Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, a former board member for a Ukraine gas company.

The administration eventually released the aid. One article of impeachment against Trump, on abuse of power, centers on the accusation he withheld the aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival.

Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate is expected to begin next week.