GAO reviewing Trump administration freeze on Ukraine military aid

Source: Politico | November 7, 2019 | Caitlin Oprysko

The watchdog is examining whether the administration violated appropriations law by failing to notify Congress of the Ukraine aid holdup.

Congress’ nonpartisan watchdog said Thursday it is reviewing the Trump administration’s decision this summer to hold up hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid for Ukraine to determine whether officials violated appropriations law by not notifying Congress of the hold.

POLITICO first reported the freeze placed on $250 million in funds meant to help Ukraine deter Russian aggression, despite the money already having been appropriated by Congress back in August.

The hold, which numerous administration officials have suggested in testimony was conditioned on Ukraine agreeing to launch investigations into Trump’s political rivals, is at the heart of the ongoing impeachment probe in the House.

Word of the hold was reportedly handed down from Trump in July, days before Trump spoke on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and asked for investigations into the Biden family and events surrounding the 2016 election.

The White House then acquiesced to bipartisan pressure and removed the hold weeks later, after it came to light.

Trump has offered differing explanations for pausing the aid, saying at first that he wanted to ensure Ukraine was sufficiently addressing issues of corruption before claiming he wanted other European allies to step up their own aid contributions. But word of Trump slow-walking the aid came just before the sum was set to expire at the end of the fiscal year, and raised alarms on Capitol Hill, at the State Department and in the Pentagon, which said it supported the aid package.

A spokesman for the Government Accountability Office confirmed that the agency is reviewing whether the administration violated appropriations law by failing to notify Congress of the development after Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) requested the review during a Senate Budget Committee hearing last week.

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