Last week, the House formally impeached President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, both of which stemmed from his plot to exchange abruptly delayed military aid for dirt on his domestic political opponents from Ukraine. Now, ahead of a trial covering those charges, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has formally requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) deliver a ruling on whether or not the aid delay was legal in the first place. The GAO was already investigating the abrupt hold on some $400 million worth of military assistance, but it’s unclear that any possible conclusion from the office would sway Senate Republicans.
A law that’s at the core of concern about the aid delay is the Impoundment Control Act, or ICA, which prohibits presidents from holding up Congressionally approved funding without notifying its members.
Van Hollen wrote:
‘The Administration has failed to even state a legal reason under the ICA for its withholding of security assistance for Ukraine, and the evidence refutes the Administration’s stated reasons… The Administration must be held accountable for its violations of the ICA, or we will open the floodgates for this and future Administrations to violate the ICA with impunity… It should be clear that the corrupt purposes identified by the House impeachment inquiry for withholding Ukraine aid violated the ICA.’
As he also notes, not only did the administration fail to provide a notification to Congress of the aid delay, let alone an explanation that actually tracked with the reality of what they were doing, the Defense Department told Congress two times that the military aid would be sent.
The Trump administration’s explanation for the abrupt aid delay is that the president was concerned about corruption in Ukraine, but that was not a new issue, and it had already been dealt with during the original aid approval process. Besides — during a widely circulated and highly scrutinized phone conversation between Trump and Ukraine’s president in July, he never mentioned “corruption.” He simply mentioned the Bidens and Democrats in general, who he completely baselessly accused of hiding the true culprit behind the 2016 Democratic email hacks.
More evidence has continued to pile up that implicates the administration in a plot that has nothing to do with concern about corruption. Political appointees like the Office of Management and Budget’s Michael Duffey took over the aid delivery process and requested that those they worked with keep quiet about the arrangements.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) commented:
‘Michael Duffey, a top Trump Administration official, sent an email ordering that the military assistance be withheld, and that that order be hush, hush and no one know about it. What were they hiding? What were they afraid of?’
Duffey has previously been subpoenaed for testimony, but he refused to show up. Now that the impeachment case is approaching trial stage, Democrats are still after his testimony, but Republicans have denounced that basic request for the appearance of a witness who’s previously been denied to investigators as wildly out of line. Hint: it’s not.