US-NEWS-IMPEACHMENT-33-LA

Lead by House of Representatives Clerk Cheryl Johnson and House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, followed by impeachment managers Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), lead the procession carrying the Articles of Impeachment from the House of Representatives to the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Government Accountability Office says the Trump administration violated federal law by withholding aid to Ukraine last summer, an act at the root of the House impeachment of President Donald Trump.

"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 Office of Management and Budget) withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act," the watchdog agency said in its report released Thursday morning.

The report comes hours before the Senate is scheduled to receive articles of impeachment from the House.

"This bombshell legal opinion from the independent Government Accountability Office demonstrates, without a doubt, that the Trump administration illegally withheld security assistance from Ukraine," said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. "The publicly available evidence also shows that the president himself ordered this illegal act."

The agency writes in its report that while Congress makes laws, including laws deciding how public money is spent, "the President is not vested with the power to ignore or amend any such duly enacted law."

The agency goes on to say that the Office if Management and Budget has not provided sufficient legal justification for holding up the aid, something the president is allowed to do in certain limited situations.

The Office of Management and Budget has called the withholding a "programmatic delay," not a violation of the Impoundment Control Act. The Government Accountability Office said that explanation is insufficient and the Budget Office and the Department of Defense have failed to provide the agency with a satisfactory reason the hold does not violate federal law.

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