Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation

 Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenMid-Atlantic states sue EPA over Chesapeake Bay pollution Trump payroll-tax deferral for federal workers sparks backlash Senators urge administration to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (D-Md.) released a slew of documents Thursday night that were either obtained during or related to the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) assessment that the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld congressionally approved aid from Ukraine last summer.

In December, Van Hollen wrote to the GAO requesting that it review the freezing of the aid.

The independent government watchdog released its report last week and concluded that by withholding the aid from Ukraine, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was in violation of the Impoundment Control Act (ICA).

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“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 report reads. “OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act. ... Therefore, we conclude that OMB violated the ICA.”

The OMB's aid freeze is at the center of the impeachment of President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy MORE that is taking place.

Van Hollen noted in a statement released along with the documents Thursday that on Dec. 11, the OMB submitted an "incomplete response" to the GAO during the watchdog's review of the matter, and that the White House "refused to respond altogether and blocked DOD from providing an independent response as well."

One of the documents that was released is a letter that the White House wrote in response to GAO's request for documents pertaining to the aid freeze.
 
"The White House does not plan to respond separately to your letters," Brian Miller, a senior associate counsel to Trump, wrote. Miller said that the Dec. 11 letter that OMB sent to GAO already answered the watchdog's questions.
 
"This is likely why the GAO accused the Administration of stonewalling their investigation," Van Hollen said in his statement. This is another example of the Administration's continued attempts to cover up their wrongdoing and unlawful actions.”
 
On Tuesday, the GOP-controlled Senate voted down a series of trial rule amendments from Democrats that would've allowed witnesses to be called during the trial and forced the White House to turn over many of the documents regarding the Ukraine aid freeze.
 
Democratic House managers have argued this week that by freezing the aid to Ukraine, President Trump tried to use the power of his office to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly announce an investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President and 2020 Democratic primary front-runner Joe BidenJoe BidenSenate Republicans face tough decision on replacing Ginsburg What Senate Republicans have said about election-year Supreme Court vacancies Biden says Ginsburg successor should be picked by candidate who wins on Nov. 3 MORE.

GOP lawmakers have countered that the White House was doing its due diligence to make sure that the aid to Ukraine wasn't falling into corrupt hands.

However, documents have shown that aid freeze happened well after the Pentagon had already confirmed that Ukraine had met the anti-corruption guidelines that were set by Congress in order for Ukraine to receive the aid.