'Faithful execution of
the law does not
permit the President
to substitute his own
policy priorities for
those that Congress
has enacted into law,'
states the GAO.
The American Spark
Trump’s Actions On Ukraine, Simply Explained
By Cliff Montgomery - Jan. 29th, 2020
The biggest political matter in the U.S. at the moment is the impeachment of Donald Trump. Everyone knows
that the issue revolves around the Trump Administration’s withholding of funds apportioned by Congress for
security assistance to Ukraine. But political pundits have been doing what they do best: arguing about
everything except the facts of the case.
What Americans - and others around the world - really need is a clear statement of facts, which ignores
charge and counter-charge alike.
We at the American Spark find that the best, most easy-to-understand statement on the matter was released
a few weeks ago by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The GAO “is an independent, non-partisan agency that works for Congress,” declares the Agency’s overview
of its mission, which adds that the “congressional watchdog ... examines how taxpayer dollars are spent and
provides Congress and federal agencies with objective, reliable information to help the government save
money and work more efficiently.”
And, as the Agency works for both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, its judgment is regularly
considered sober and authoritative. It is, in fact, the top federal auditor of United States government activities.
That authority doesn’t bode well for the Trump Administration and its potentially impeachable actions. The
GAO assessment of the Ukraine matter boldly declares that “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the
President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law. OMB withheld
funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act (ICA).”
The Agency flatly concludes that the Trump Administration violated the law.
Below, the Spark quotes the ‘Digest’ and ‘Background’ sections of the GAO assessment; tomorrow it will
publish the ‘Discussion’ portion of the study, which investigates - and rejects - the Trump Administration’s
rationale for its actions.
“In the summer of 2019, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) withheld from obligation funds
appropriated to the Department of Defense (DOD) for security assistance to Ukraine. In order to withhold the
funds, OMB issued a series of nine apportionment schedules with footnotes that made all unobligated
balances unavailable for obligation.
“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that
Congress has enacted into law. 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. [...]”
“For fiscal year 2019, Congress appropriated $250 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative
(USAI). [...]” “The funds were available ‘to provide assistance, including training; equipment; lethal assistance;
logistics support, supplies and services; sustainment; and intelligence support to the military and national
security forces of Ukraine.’ ”
“The appropriation made the funds available for obligation through September 30, 2019.
“DOD was required to notify Congress 15 days in advance of any obligation of the USAI funds. [...] In order to
obligate more than fifty percent of the amount appropriated, DOD was also required to certify to Congress that
Ukraine had taken ‘substantial actions’ on ‘defense institutional reforms.’ ”
“On May 23, 2019, DOD provided this certification to Congress ... In its certification, DOD included descrip-
tions of its planned expenditures, totaling $125 million.
“On July 25, 2019, OMB issued the first of nine apportionment schedules with footnotes withholding USAI
funds from obligation. [...] This footnote read:
‘Amounts apportioned, but not yet obligated as of the date of this reapportionment, for the Ukraine
Security Assistance Initiative (Initiative) are not available for obligation until August 5, 2019, to allow for
an inter-agency process to determine the best use of such funds. Based on OMB’s communication with
DOD on July 25, 2019, OMB understands from the Department that this brief pause in obligations will
not preclude DOD’s timely execution of the final policy direction. DOD may continue its planning and
casework for the Initiative during this period.”
“On both August 6 and 15, 2019, OMB approved additional apportionment actions to extend this ‘pause in
obligations,’ with footnotes that, except for the dates, were identical to the July 25, 2019 apportionment action.
“OMB approved additional apportionment actions on August 20, 27, and 31, 2019; and on September 5, 6,
and 10, 2019. The footnotes from these additional apportionment actions were, except for the dates,
otherwise [nearly] identical to one another. They nevertheless differed from those of July 25 and August 6 and
15, 2019, in that they omitted the second sentence that appeared in the earlier apportionment actions
regarding OMB’s understanding that the pause in obligation would not preclude timely obligation.
“[For example,] the apportionment schedule issued on August 20 read as follows:
‘Amounts apportioned, but not yet obligated as to the date of this reapportionment, for the Ukraine
Security Assistance Initiative (Initiative) are not available for obligation until August 26, 2019, to allow for
an interagency process to determine the best use of such funds. DOD may continue its planning and
casework for the Initiative during this period.’
“The apportionment schedules issued on August 27 and 31, 2019; and on September 5, 6, and 10, 2019 were
identical except for the dates.
“On September 12, 2019, OMB issued an apportionment that removed the footnote that previously made the
USAI funds unavailable for obligation. [... As the GAO reveals in its study, the appropriation only made the
funds available for obligation through September 30th, 2019. Congress rescinded and reappropriated the
funds prior to that deadline - actions which appear to have made a September 12th footnote on Ukraine funds
a moot issue.]
“According to OMB, approximately $214 million of the USAI appropriation was withheld as a result of these
footnotes. [...] OMB did not transmit a special message proposing to defer or rescind the funds.”
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