- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Government Accountability Office said Thursday that the Trump White House broke the law by holding up military assistance money to Ukraine — a revelation that Democrats say bolsters their impeachment case against President Trump.

GAO’s finding is just the latest piece of evidence to emerge since House Democrats voted to impeach Mr. Trump on Dec. 16.

House investigators say they’ve also received new documents and new offers of cooperation from potential witnesses to the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine, which are at the center of the impeachment case.

“Time has been, I think, very effective in not only bringing new evidence to light — and the evidence was already overwhelming — but also forcing senators to go on record,” House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff said Wednesday. “Do they want a fair trial? One that’s fair to the president, but also fair to the American people, or are they going to participate in a cover-up?”

Republicans, though, said the revelations are more evidence that Democrats went off half-cocked, and produced a flawed impeachment. They challenged Democrats to take a mulligan and do it right.

“If they want to make a more compelling case for my Senate colleagues to hear, then let’s do it over here in the House,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican.

While the country tries to make sense of the new developments, senators are grappling with whether they enhance or complicate the impeachment trial that’s set to begin Tuesday.

Democrats say the Senate must hold a full trial and call witnesses, essentially doing work the House was either unable or unwilling to do.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has said it’s not the Senate’s job to fix a botched impeachment.

GAO report

The GAO, Congress’s official investigative arm, weighed in Thursday with a stern spanking to the White House, saying the Office of Management and Budget broke the Impoundment Control Act by withholding Ukraine money based on policy differences with Congress.

While money can be delayed under the law to prevent waste or abuse, or because of unexpected “contingencies,” none of those were the case with the Ukraine money, wrote GAO general counsel Thomas H. Armstrong.

Democrats called the finding a “bombshell,” and said it should force the Senate to hold a full trial on Mr. Trump.

“The OMB, the White House, the administration — I’m saying this — broke the law,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “This reinforces — again — the need for documents and eyewitnesses in the Senate.”

The White House dismissed the report as political meddling.

The GAO’s findings are not binding, and Mr. Trump not the first president to be dinged by the watchdog for illegal spending, none of which cases produced any significant impeachment rumbles.

President Obama was cited for illegally diverting billions of dollars in Obamacare money, and for spending nearly $1 million not approved by Congress to secure the 2014 release of Bowe Bergdahl, a former Army sergeant who deserted his post in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban.

President George W. Bush was also dinged by GAO for spending money on pro-administration advertising campaigns in violation of the law.

Lev Parnas

House Democrats plan to send to the Senate a trove of previously unreleased documents from Lev Parnas, a former Ukrainian businessman who is associated with the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The documents included handwritten notes about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announcing an investigation into the Bidens and text messages with senior Ukrainian officials. One exchange even suggested that Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was under surveillance before leaving her post.

One document includes a screenshot of a letter Mr. Giuliani sent to Mr. Zelensky asking to set up a meeting in May, for which he said he had Mr. Trump’s “knowledge and consent.”

During an interview on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” Wednesday night, Mr. Parnas claimed that Mr. Trump, Attorney General William Barr and Vice President Mike Pence were all well aware of the efforts by himself and Mr. Giuliani to secure politically motivated investigations from Ukraine.

Mr. Giuliani, the White House, Mr. Pence and the Justice Department have all denied Mr. Parnas’ claims.

Democrats say his information enhances their case.

“Witnesses may tell the truth and witnesses may not tell the truth. Documents don’t generally lie. And in the documents that we submitted to the Judiciary Committee just last night, you see the importance of documents,” Mr. Schiff said this week.

But Republicans were skeptical, pointing to the criminal charges Mr. Parnas currently faces from Mr. Barr’s Justice Department.

“He seems like a shady character to me,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.

Budget emails

Other post-impeachment vote revelations include emails obtained and released by JustSecurity, a project of New York University, that expose some of the internal debate within the White House over the Ukraine assistance delay.

Democrats point to one exchange where the White House budget office told the Pentagon to hold the aid. It was sent 90 minutes after Mr. Trump’s now-famous July phone call with Mr. Zelensky — a call that is at the center of the impeachment case.

The OMB denies that the hold and timing of the exchange were linked to Mr. Trump’s request for the investigations.

Democrats say the timing is suspicious enough that Michael Duffey, a top budget official, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, must be called as witnesses in the Senate.

House Democrats wanted to talk to them for the impeachment inquiry, but didn’t pursue the matter as they rushed to meet their self-imposed end-of-year deadline for impeaching the president.

John R. Bolton

While the White House officials remain reluctant to appear, one former official who did not talk to the House says he would respond if the Senate issued him a subpoena.

Former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton was skeptical of Mr. Giuliani’s machinations in Ukraine, according to testimony the House impeachment inquiry did amass. One of his former aides, Fiona Hill, said he called the operation a “drug deal.”

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified that Mr. Bolton was “in the loop” about Mr. Trump’s attempts to get Ukraine to announce the investigations.

A handful of Republican senators have said they’d be interested to hear from Mr. Bolton, who resigned from the administration last year. Others, however, said it is ultimately the House’s responsibility to send over all relevant information they need to consider at the trial.

Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, who is one of the seven impeachment managers prosecuting the president, said the House hasn’t “ruled out” interviewing Mr. Bolton on its own, but “the ball is in the Senate’s court.”

Alex Swoyer contributed to this report

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide