The Trump administration broke federal law when it held back security aid from Ukraine last year, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a decision released Thursday.
The $391 million in aid, which was already appropriated by Congress, was held up by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget last summer at President Trump’s request.
“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 watchdog group said in its decision. “O.M.B. withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act.”
The freeze in the aid came at the same time that Trump and his emissaries were pressuring Ukraine to announce an investigation into Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. The White House has long denied any connection between the hold and the pressure campaign. Instead, Trump insists the money was delayed over concerns about corruption in Ukraine.
In a statement Thursday, the White House took issue GAO’s decision, which comes as Trump’s Senate impeachment trial approaches. “We disagree with GOA’s opinion,” said Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the budget office. “OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the president’s priorities and with the law.”