Trump Admin Busted Illegally Withholding Funds From Important Government Program

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The Trump Administration hasn’t had much to show for the nearly twelve months that it’s been in power at this point, other than the destruction of the accomplishments of past administrations. In that light, the Trump White House’s original budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 included a provision for the closure of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E, established under the Obama Administration.

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 24: Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney testifies during a House Budget Committee hearing concerning the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget, on Capitol Hill, May 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mulvaney defended President Trump’s proposal to cut $3.6 trillion in federal spending over the next 10 years while increasing spending on defense and border security. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The cuts called for by the White House have not been enacted, but in the process of preparing for them to possibly go forward, Department of Energy officials directed funds already appropriated for the office in question to be withheld, which was a violation of the law, according to the Government Accountability Office.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 16: U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry speaks at the Energy Policy Summit at the National Press Club, October 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. The event was organized by the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE). (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Ironically, the DOE could have legally withheld the funds if instructed to do so by the president under certain circumstances, but the president issued no such command, which is fitting, considering how much of a hands-off approach he takes to the job he is supposed to be doing as president.

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 25: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump speaks alongside students and members of congress and his Administration before signing a memorandum to expand access to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in the Oval Office at the White House on September 25, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

The GAO received a request from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) to investigate whether or not $91 million meant for usage by ARPA-E in Fiscal Year 2017 had actually been made available, and during the course of their investigation, they confirmed that the funds had been withheld.

UNITED STATES – JULY 11: Rep. Mark Critz, R-Pa.; and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, speak at a news conference on the Democrats’ Make It In America plan. The plan would “focus on job creation while Republicans waste time on yet another repeal of the health care reform law.” (Photo by Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

However, GAO General Counsel Thomas Armstrong revealed in a letter sent to Congressional committees that the Department of Energy’s Office of the General Counsel — their legal department — informed the relevant parties that they were breaking the law by withholding the funds in anticipation of the president’s budget proposal being passed and the funds have since been made available.

Rep. Johnson, who serves as the Ranking Democrat on the House science committee, was pleased with the result, issuing a statement thanking the GAO for their investigation and reading, in part as follows:

‘I hope that the Administration now understands that Federal agencies must provide lawfully directed appropriations to the programs to which they are dedicated. It cannot attempt to shut down an agency or starve a program it doesn’t like by withholding funds. It is illegal and we in Congress will not allow it.’

UNITED STATES – MARCH 6: Science, Space, and Technology Committee ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson, R-Texas, speaks in favor of funding for the committee during the House Administration Committee hearing on “Committee Funding for the 113th Congress” on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The $91 million supposed to be made available a long time ago to ARPA-E programs isn’t even the only illegal withholding that Rep. Johnson has discovered at the Department of Energy.

All the way back in June 2017, Rep. Johnson got the DOE to release Fiscal Year 2016 funds for ARPA-E programs that had been being withheld in similar fashion to the FY 2017 funds. Rep. Johnson’s office describes those funds being released as “a result” of a request she made at the time for the GAO to investigate the withheld funds.

The pattern of illegally withheld funds that Rep. Johnson has uncovered at the DOE fits in with a pattern of Trump Administration officials seeking to torpedo the operations of the agencies they are supposed to be leading.

Those to act in such a way include EPA Administrator and climate change denier Scott Pruitt, who literally sued the EPA numerous times in his past position as Oklahoma state Attorney General, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who has advocated against public schools being pre-eminent in education.

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 7: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the mission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on December 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

Featured Image via Chris Kleponis – Pool/ Getty Images

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