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Jan 16 2020

Impeachment: Yes, Trump Broke Federal Law

The first article of impeachment charges him with abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging Democratic rivals.

Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election. He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage. President Trump also sought to pressure the Government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official United States Government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations. President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit. In so doing, President Trump used the powers of the Presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process. He thus ignored and injured the interests of the Nation.

President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct through the following means:

(1) President Trump — acting both directly and through his agents within and outside the United States Government — corruptly solicited the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into —

(A) a political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.; and

(B) a discredited theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine — rather than Russia — interfered in the 2016 United States Presidential election.

(2) With the same corrupt motives, President Trump — acting both directly and through his agents within and outside the United States Government — conditioned two official acts on the public announcements that he had requested

(A) the release of $391 million of United States taxpayer funds that Congress had appropriated on a bipartisan basis for the purpose of providing vital military and security assistance to Ukraine to oppose Russian aggression and which President Trump had ordered suspended; and

(B) a head of state meeting at the White House, which the President of Ukraine sought to demonstrate continued United States support for the Government of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

Today the Government Accountability Office, the federal government’s independent auditor, released its finding that Donald Trump broke the law by withholding the $214 million worth of equipment, training and other support to help Ukraine in its battle against Russian-backed forces.

While the Ukraine scandal has revealed a variety of abuses of power, there is one particular way in which Trump and his administration might have broken the law, when on his orders the administration withheld military aid to Ukraine that had been appropriated by Congress in what we now know is an attempt to coerce Ukraine into announcing an “investigation” that would smear Joe Biden.

The Government Accountability Office, the federal government’s independent auditor, released a judgment saying Trump did in fact break that law when through the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) he withheld the aid from Ukraine in the summer of 2019:

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.

To clarify some of the bureaucratese, a “programmatic delay” refers to a finite set of practical reasons the executive branch can use to justify temporarily withholding aid that Congress has appropriated. When that happens, the executive branch is required by the law to write an explanation to Congress; the Trump administration didn’t do that either.

If the Senate Republicans refuse to remove this man from office, and bar him from ever holding another elected office, they are putting their stamp of approval on this and any other president in the future, to break the law for his/her own gain and ignore the Constitutional oath of office.