GAO: “Office of Management and Budget—Withholding of Ukraine Security Assistance”

From GAO today on “the drug deal”:

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.

Full decision here.

46 thoughts on “GAO: “Office of Management and Budget—Withholding of Ukraine Security Assistance”

    1. Dave

      Sammy stated “Arrest Joe Biden immediately!”

      This is either a joke, or evidence of Sammy’s brain damage. I cannot tell which.

      1. pgl

        I vote brain dead. Just like all those other MAGA supporters. Now Trump is a traitor but the MAGA crowd deems that not to be impeachable. Go figure!

        1. sammy

          Joe Biden confessed to committing the same crime you accuse Trump of committing (with no evidence): “I’m leaving in 6 hours…… if he (prosecutor investigating company with son Hunter on Board of) you’re not getting the billion dollars”

          1. Barkley Rosser

            Oh dear, sammy. You have been watching too much Sean Hannity. Yes, Sean says that all the time. Here is the probleem. It is false. The prosecutor was investigating Hunter Biden. In fact he was not investigating corrutpion at all. There was an international demand frrom European nations and the IMF for his removal.

            Oh, and while Biden threatened the withholding of a billion $, it was not withheld. In the case of Trump, the money was withheld, although eventually released after it came out that it was being withheld and why.

          2. Barkley Rosser

            Meant to say the prosecutor was not investigating Hunter Biden. That is a pure and unadulterated lie that Hannity and others just endlessly repeat over and over. You are just making yourself look like a complete fool here with this stuff.

  1. ilsm

    Too many years ago……. Reagan was president and we could not obligate money quickly enough

    I managed part of an Air Force “system acquisition”. Most of us did not feel the object system “useful” we had concurrence from the operators, the work was there because it would be done in a certain congressional district, etc. Our plan, concurred with the colonel, was to “let the funds expire” and slow the approval of the contract to obligate those funds. It was near the end of the fiscal year…..

    We received a terse letter from somewhere in the pentagon to “get it on contract, now”. A lot of weekend work and the funds were obligated to spend the money in said congressional district.

    Seems passed appropriations are laws!

    But no one seemed too mad at us way back then.

  2. 2slugbaits

    Well, this is Comptroller 101 stuff, so it’s hard to believe that Mulvaney didn’t know that this was illegal. Anyone who has ever had anything to do with comptroller business learns and understands four critical statutes:
    (1) Impoundment Control Act
    (2) Anti-Deficiency Act
    (3) Arms Export Control Act
    (4) Feed and Forage Act

    There’s simply no excuse for not knowing these basic laws. Mulvaney should be fitted in an orange jumpsuit.

    1. pgl

      Mulvaney knows the law. It is just that this White House is above all laws. Get with the program. All Hail King Donald I!

    2. Jake formerly of the LP

      Yep, put these crooks on the stand at the House. TOMORROW. And if not, then Mnuchin gets impeached at Treasury by association. And add it to the file for Trump Impeachment, Part Deux.

      It’s as also funny how this Admin spends money at record levels to keep the economy going before the election, but THIS, this gets held up to extort a favor.

    3. ilsm


      There seem to be a lot of laws that get short shrift inside the beltway, such as War Powers, and the declaration of war clause. An argument that an “appropriation law” cannot limit a president’s Art. 2 foreign policy prerogatives could be made. GAO are not constitutional lawyers nor can they get in the roil over “separation of powers” being funded by the embarrassing legislative “power”.

      1. pgl

        “GAO are not constitutional lawyers”. Neither is Alan Dershowitz but this does not stop this arrogant blow hard from HARVARD from opining on whether the impeachment charges are really impeachable. Guess what troll? All four of the Constitutional lawyers that appeared before the House Judiciary Committee said yes. And that included the GOP witness Jonathon Turley.

        How impress us ilsm with your expertise in Constitutional Law, which I bet you learned from Dr. Seuss stories!

        1. ilsm


          The “workings” of the US government are recondite, particularly if you “ain’t been there”, and the use of lawyers with differing opinions don’t help.

          As Mark Twain said: ” I have an education, it took years to get over it,” in my case once I joined the US government it was all new.

  3. Manfred

    You see Menzie, your beloved Obama Administration was also admonished several times by the GAO.
    But, in all instances, you Menzie, PhD Berkeley, full professor at U Wisconsin Madison, were nowhere to be seen.
    It would be nice if a PhD Berkeley, full professor of Econ at U Wisc Madison would have some more even-handedness
    and objectivity. But, alas, you don’t give a crap. You are just another Democrat hack, doing the dirty work for the
    Democratic Party.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Manfred: Wow, you sound a little resentful. But let’s quote a little of your objective analysis of the state of analysis in academica:

      the current culture in Economics and Public Policy schools and in several elite Economics Departments is that stuff is free, opportunity costs are optional, and manna just fall from heaven. I really fret about the current crop of Economics students coming out of such departments.

      Wow. Just, wow. You need some Prozac…

    2. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Manfred: Continuing on my thesis that you are unnecessarily “grumpy”, recall your comment on Swagel’s appointment to CBO?

      Phillip Swagel has a PhD in Economics from Harvard and an undergrad degree in Econ from Princeton.
      Who knows, maybe this is not enough, for the august commentators in Econbrowser.
      On the other hand, he is a garden variety white man, so, don’t know if he qualifies.
      Because apparently, in this blog, that now matters.

      But nobody on the blog actually disparaged Swagel’s record. So I ask, did you get passed over for promotion, or something?

      1. Manfred

        Oh Menzie.
        Maybe the Prozac should be taken by you.
        You evidently sidestepped completely my criticism of your post, and instead went on a rant criticizing old comments of mine.
        And all that, with a PhD from Berkeley and a full professorship at Wisconsin’s flagship university.

    3. 2slugbaits

      Manfred The things you cited in your links are fairly ordinary cases in which two branches of government disagree over the law. Those disputes are usually settled in the courts. And they typically represent policy differences. And here’s where he GAO report on OMB’s impoundment doesn’t get things quite right. The GAO refers to the impoundment of security assistance funds for Ukraine as substituting “his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law. ” That’s simply too generous. This wasn’t a dispute over policy priorities. This wasn’t a case of the Executive having one set of priorities and the Congress another set of priorities. In this case Trump was impounding funds in order to strong arm a vulnerable ally into providing “dirt” on a domestic political rival. That’s what makes this particular case sui generis and distinguishes it from other humdrum cases of the Executive trying to impound funds because of policy differences. Impoundment of funds disputes between the President and the Congress are “dog bites man” stories. Impounding funds to extort an ally into providing political dirt on a political opponent is Mafia stuff.

      1. Manfred

        Oh Slugs.
        Your willingness to twist and turn like a pretzel defending the beloved Obama Administration against GAO, but criticizing the Trump Administration supporting GAO is admirable. But full of bull. The fact is that *all* administrations in modern times have been criticized by the GAO one way or another, and of course it is an *opinion* (not fact) whether such criticism rise to impeachable offenses. If every criticism from GAO is impeachable, then no modern president would have finished his term (I say “his”, because they were all males, with pronoun he/his). Menzie was nowhere to be seen when the GAO criticized his very beloved Obama Administration.

        1. pgl

          Yep – you have utterly failed to grasp what any of this is all about. Menzie is right – you need your meds NOW!

        2. 2slugbaits

          Manfred You need to improve your reading skills because you have clearly misunderstood what I said. I’m the one who said that violations of the Impoundment Act are fairly routine….”dog bites man” story. Most of those involve different interpretations of the law and are ultimately decided by the courts. That’s been true for the last fifty years. Nothing new. What is new is that up until now no President has intentionally violated the Impoundment Act for the express purpose of coercing a weak ally into manufacturing dirt on a political opponent. What the GAO got wrong was in interpreting Trump’s violation of the Impoundment Act as just another case of policy or legal disagreements with Congress. Trump’s motivation was crassly political and not due to differences in policy or legal interpretations, as is usually the case. See the difference?

          BTW, the consequences of Impoundment Act violations almost always fall on comptrollers types, not the President. If the violation is unintended it usually results in a few days of unpaid time off. If the violation was shown to be intentional, then the consequences can be more severe.

    4. pgl

      Gee Manfred. How to pay insurance funds to execute our health care policy. This is all your incredible research skills could come up with? Weak!

      And I bashed ilsm for not getting what this is about. Do us a favor and work with Bill Barr to dig up some dirt on the Bidens and James Comey.

  4. pgl

    The House sycophants kept saying Trump committed no specific Federal crime – a claim that Senator Sycophant (that Kentucky turtle named Mitch McConnell) dutifully repeated just yesterday. Yet another dishonest GOP talking point gets flushed down the toilet!

    1. Willie

      Now there is a specific criminal offense. So, is Little Lord Trump-leroy really above the law? Barr thinks so, but does anybody else. And, if he was a Democrat, would the same logic apply? Probably not.

  5. pgl

    “The Constitution specifically vests Congress with the power of the purse, providing that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of
    Appropriations made by Law.” U.S. Const. art. I, § 9, cl. 7. The Constitution also vests all legislative powers in Congress and sets forth the procedures of
    bicameralism and presentment, through which the President may accept or veto a bill passed by both Houses of Congress, and Congress may subsequently override a presidential veto. Id., art. I, § 7, cl. 2, 3. The President is not vested with the power to ignore or amend any such duly enacted law. See Clinton v. City of New York,
    524 U.S. 417, 438 (1998) (the Constitution does not authorize the President “to enact, to amend, or to repeal statutes”). Instead, he must “faithfully execute” the law
    as Congress enacts it. U.S. Const., art. II, § 3. ”

    Thomas Armstrong – general counsel for the OMB – is behind the times. Our Constitution has been repealed by King Donald I.

  6. 2slugbaits

    It’s ironic how a lot of Trump supporters wring their hands over the idea of “unelected bureaucrats” usurping power from the people, but what is Mick Mulvaney if not an unelected bureaucrat who chose to ignore constitutionally mandated appropriations that were approved by Congress and signed by President Trump?

    1. Jake formerly of the LP

      “Our rules don’t apply to us.” – 21st Century GOP motto.

      And the real Deep State seems to take place at
      Trump Hotel bars.

      1. Willie

        What those morons have not figured out is this: the precedent set now will get broken off in their hides by a gleeful opposition once the opposition is in power. They have it coming, but the United States does not. Maybe we do, though. We elected Yurtle (D-KY) and the rest.

      2. Manfred

        “Our rules don’t apply to us.” – 21st Century GOP motto.

        Well, well… you see, some of us, think slightly differently. Some of us think that such criticism is also valid on the other side.
        There is a long list that one could furnish regarding this – for example, Hillary Clinton violating the Espionage Law, Obama ruling by decree because he could not find support in Congress, Bill Clinton lying to a federal judge and subborning perjury (which was actually proven beyond dispute) and getting home free instead of going to jail like the rest of us would go.
        I don’t care if you criticize Republicans. But don’t come and defend Democrats as if they were angels from Heaven and they never, ever, break the law or believe to be above it. But apparently, in this blog, one of the owners and most commenters are not capable of some objectivity and even-handedness.

        1. pgl

          “Some of us think that such criticism is also valid on the other side.”

          Bill Clinton committed adultery and lied about it. Trump is a traitor. Maybe a MAGA hearing hat troll like you does not get the difference but those of us with IQs that cannot be counted on two hands do.

          “Hillary Clinton violating the Espionage Law”. Seriously? Did Devin Nunes or RUDY tell you that? Hey Manfred – get a grip. Both of them are liars.

        2. pgl

          Manfred claims Hillary Clinton violated the Espionage Act but like the troll he is – Manfred cannot explain WTF he meant by that pathetic allegation. Well here it is boys and girls:

          “For most of the past three years, the FBI has tried to portray its top leadership as united behind ex-Director James Comey’s decision not to pursue criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for transmitting classified information over her insecure, private email server.”

          That email canard Manfred? Oh wait you have some support for such utter stupidity:

          “During questioning by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), Baker was unequivocal about his early view that Clinton should face criminal charges.”
          John Ratcliffe! What of the most partisan and stupid jacka$$es in the House. Just Manfred’s kind of guy!

          1. Barkley Rosser

            Regarding HRC violating the Espionage Act by using her private unsecured phone, Trump reportedly regularly uses his private unssecured phone, with it clear his calls have been listened to by all sorts of enemies, although some of these parties he does not view as eneimies, e.g. Putin’s Russia. After all, Putin informs him of all sorts of useful things, such as that it was really Ukraine that was interfering in the 2016 presidential election, not, ahem, Russia.

        3. noneconomist

          Sure, Manny, but can you do us a favor though? Quit crying about how unfair this blog is when your own tripe is included without censoring.
          Or when said tripe is called out and dismissed, refrain from playing beaten down conservative victim of voracious liberals.

          1. pgl

            It seems Greg Mankiw has not allowed ANY comments for a long time. Now I can understand why Mankiw bans Trumpster trash but what apparently set Mankiw off was people pointing out the people pay more than Federal taxes whenever Mankiw claims the tax system is very progressive by omitting state and local taxation.

        4. Barkley Rosser


          He has not been impeached because of it because it was decided it would be complicated and difficult to pin down. But note that Trump has been accused of repeatedly violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution against receiving money from foreigners. I think it is now up to 26 nations he has received money from, with in fact his foreign policy apparently influenced by this, e.g. his over-the-top favoring of Saudi Arabia. No other president in our history has ever been accused of violating this clause of the Constitution, not one of them not even once.

      3. pgl

        I once joined someone for a drink near Columbus Circle for a drink and the only nearby bar was in a Trump hotel. I could not believe how much a beer cost. Now I know why. Naive me.

  7. Not Trampis

    I’m shocked, totally shocked. Mulvaney is incompetent at his job. Who’d thunked it.

    his Boss is such a detail man as he assures us. ( sarc)

  8. joseph

    Trump has just signed up Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz for his impeachment defense.

    One would think that a President of the United States employing Jeffrey Epstein’s lawyer Dream Team would be problematical but for this particular president it seems oddly fitting.

    1. pgl

      Alan Dershowitz has been charged with having sex with an underage girl. Maybe it was how Epstein compensated this overly inflated egomaniac.

      1. Moses Herzog

        Have they officially charged him?? I would love to see the link on that. He has a well-known and worn-out moniker online. Pedowitz. As far as I know he has never given explanation on alibis or why he liked hanging out with Epstein so much.

        I have discussed both Pedowitz and Kenneth Starr ad nauseam on this website months ago, and probably going over 2 years ago. I’m confident many rolled their eyes when I brought up these “off topic” issues in Menzie’s (I try to confine myself to the more political threads) threads. I’m wondering how much Starr and Pedowitz are now deemed off-topic by regulars here. Maybe sometimes there is a point to my ramblings. I think Menzie might be surprised how often I brought up these two men recently hired to represent donald trump if he did a key word search of his own blog. He can include “Baylor University” and “Waco campus” in that if he feels so inclined and see which commenter brought those topics up multiple times.

        1. Moses Herzog

          BTW, as a sidenote, I was suspended from using Twitter roughly 2 years ago (I don’t remember the exact time) and I am clear to this very day, for dogging a female sports reporter in the central Texas region, for having literally nothing to say about the Baylor board of regents behavior during the football team r*pe controversy and then complaining when Baylor’s opposing fans in a basketball game were chanting about the r*pe crimes committed that she found it “offensive”. I basically asked her why she seemed more offended by chants about the crimes than the protection of the actual r*pists themselves. Less than 2 minutes later I was banned by the administrators of Twitter.

  9. ilsm

    The US in the Middle East today and Vietnam 1967 have far too much in common to forget! It is now ancient history, which the US forgot and is going down the same path with more money but thankfully fewer US casualties.

    Tomorrow I will stay home all day as working folk will be on holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr.

    I will read, as always this weekend: “Beyond Vietnam”.

    While we argue our divisions see how little has changed since April 1967.

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