The Government Accountability Office, the federal government’s top auditing group, released a report on Thursday deeming the Trump administration’s hold on military aid to Ukraine illegal.
While Congress had earmarked $350 million in military aid destined for Ukraine over the summer, the Trump administration held up the transfer of the aid. The White House Office of Management and Budget explained in a December memo to the GAO that the holdup was intended as a routine review of the funds. However, the GAO eventually concluded that the measure was not in line with the law.
“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the GAO wrote in its report. “The OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act (ICA).
“The withholding was not a programmatic delay. Therefore, we conclude that OMB violated the ICA,” the report continued.
The OMB original memo explained that Defense Department officials told their own staff that the aid package to Ukraine would not be released until September. Additionally, the memo states that “at no point during the pause” did DoD attorneys tell OMB officials the aid would not be released by the end of the fiscal year.
The finding by the GAO may bolster Democrats’ leverage ahead of the President Trump’s impeachment trial. Democrats allege that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country to investigate corruption allegations against political rival Joe Biden.