GAO Finds Trump's Actions Illegal as Impeachment Trial Begins

Mish

A nonpartisan Congressional watchdog says Trump acted illegally on Ukraine. This is the heart of the impeachment trial.

The Trump Impeachment Trial is now underway. This is only the third such occurrence in US history.

Shortly after 2 p.m., Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding, was escorted into the Senate by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), Roy Blunt (R., Mo.), Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.).

Everyone in the chamber rose to their feet, including members of the public and press who looked on from the balconies. The only sound was the scratching of reporters’ pens. Then Chief Justice Roberts spoke.

“Senators, I attend the Senate in conformity with your notice for the purpose of joining with you for the trial of the President of the United States. I am now prepared to take the oath.”

Senators were then called in alphabetical order to the Senate clerk’s desk to sign their names in an oath book. All of the senators were present for the swearing-in except for Sen. Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.), who is at home with a family member facing a medical issue, according to his office. He plans to be sworn in next week, before the trial begins in earnest.

Trial Adjourned

The Senate trial adjourned until Tuesday at 1 p.m. following the swear in process.

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday.

Two Articles of Impeachment

  1. The first article of impeachment stems from Mr. Trump pressing Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, including by withholding almost $400 million in aid to help Kyiv combat Russian aggression.
  2. The second article accuses Mr. Trump of impeding Congress’s investigation by preventing witnesses from testifying and defying subpoenas for documentary evidence.

Trump Violated the Law

Regarding point 1, earlier today, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan Congressional watchdog concluded Hold on Ukraine Aid Violated Law.

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.

The GAO doesn’t enforce penalties for its legal decisions. Thus any it's up to Congress to come up with a remedy.

This impeachment process is the remedy.

What About Witnesses?

What witnesses are called and what evidence is admitted is up to the majority.

If four Republicans defect, the Democrats may catch a break. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will otherwise set up rules and ram them through.

Witnesses are a potentially a two-edged sword. Both Trump and the Democrats have reasons to both want them and not want them.

And if there are witnesses, we are going to hear a lot about Hunter Biden.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (98)
Greggg
Greggg

... and nothing will ever happen because this is just about acting.

No. 1-24
Zardoz
Zardoz

More witnesses would mean more truth. Trump needs to let his people testify.

BaronAsh
BaronAsh

Predictions (for fun):

Short trial most likely otherwise too much systemic dirty laundry will be aired, injurious to all involved. (Can't have that in the Senate, can we?!)

The GAO business is a valid but subjective point, not a 'high crime' etc. Executive Privilege will hold, since otherwise the whole trial has to be put on hold as it works its way through various courts. Even expedited straight to SC, it will take a few weeks or months. So not many witnesses is most likely. They will try the case as developed up until impeachment, which is actually what is supposed to happen anyway. The trial is not supposed to be a further investigation, let alone of new evidence and charges exploding frequently in the media (a la Kavanaugh hearings).

Trump will not be removed, but will get 55 votes or more against him, a great wound both personally and politically.

But he will wear this as a badge of honor in the upcoming campaign. His opponents will lay it on thick with ongoing talking points - and more to be announced during the trial no doubt - both sides thus waging a classic 'throw the crooks out' campaign.

Both sides will truly and deeply hate the other to an unprecedented degree. The country will not recover for a generation or more - TDS will morph into NDS (National Derangement Syndrome).

Later in the year, there will be prosecutions against some who have engineered the 'resistance' against him since before the 2017 inauguration. The media will downplay it, but his side will feel vindicated, and about half the independents out there will decide that 'fair is fair' and pull the lever in Trump's favor. The Left is simply too strident, angry and generally negative to generate enthusiasm; anger only gets you so far.

And then he will win in a landslide to the joy of the majority, the chagrin of the minority and despair of TDS metrolandia.

Casual_Observer
Casual_Observer

Trump is the true crook and has been for decades. He isn't wrong about a lot of the issues the country has faced (globalization, loss of middle class jobs etc) but that doesn't excuse him trying to rig the next election. If Joe or Hunter Biden testify Trump is going to come out looking worse. Trump continues to step on his own positive successes and step on his message. If he loses the election he will have no one to blame but himself. In the end two wrongs don't make a right.

Sechel
Sechel

Calling Biden would be a smoke screen. He's not fact witness to anything Trump did. Might as well call Hillary Clinton. That doesn't mean it won't happen. Many things about impeachment separate it from the normal rules of a real trial.

Casual_Observer
Casual_Observer

Mish - FWIW Trump has already been impeached. He can wear that however he wants but the longer the Senate Trial goes on the worse he comes out looking. Any other President would win under the current economic circumstances in a landslide but Trump repeatedly has felt the need to cheat in order to win. Only time will tell if he pays the price for this but the truth is he never had to do any of it.

Sechel
Sechel

I don't think the facts are really in dispute. Trump doesn't deny holding up the funds, nor wanting Biden investigated or Ukraine making a public announcement to that effect. If you remember way back to when this story first broke the Senate was mostly gobsmacked and there was enough reaction that Trump felt compelled to release a summary of the call transcript. Since then some Republican Senators have fallen back in line.

This could be similar to the Clinton impeachment where ultimately the Senate rules based on whether the conduct rises to the level of removal from office.

Curious-Cat
Curious-Cat

Hmmmm.... GAO also has TDS?

Rvrider
Rvrider

I call BS. The entire system is stuffed with partisans. I’m not arguing for Trump — how the hell would I know whether he “broke the law” or not. I’m just saying everything coming out of Washington stinks like a blown out wax seal under a toilet. The best thing for this country and world might be a meteor strike during the impeachment trial.

RonJ
RonJ

Is the GAO non partisan? It is turning out to be that there is a lot of government corruption going on.

AshH
AshH

Is Mish finally coming around? Seems like last week impeachment was an unsubstantiated witch hunt.

The Senate trial needs to answer the following questions:

  1. Did Trump order the withholding of aid to Ukraine in exchange for an announcement of an investigation (and if not, who made the order to withhold aid, and why)?
  2. If there is enough evidence to make a determination to question 1, does it warrant removing him from office?

It's entirely reasonable to conclude yes to 1, but no to 2.

Not sure how to handle the 2nd article, but somehow the House prosecutors are going to have to argue about what responsibility the President has to provide access to Congress, with Trump lawyers taking the other side. The 2nd article may be a lost cause. I think that obstructing the Mueller investigation would have been a stronger case.

The witnesses that are called should be able to provide insight and expertise on those arguments only, and I don't see how calling Hunter to testify answers any of those critical questions.

thimk
thimk

If witnesses are called the dems threw Biden under the bus.

markadams99
markadams99

The GAO allegation is a complete crock. It's a shame that your anti-Trump disposition inhibits your judgement: https://hotair.com/archives/ed-morrissey/2020/01/16/gao-trump-violated-impoundment-control-act-hold-ukraine-aid/

Purvis Lebone
Purvis Lebone

How many times has the GAO found other president's actions illegal? How many times did the GAO find Obama's actions illegal? I'm going to go out on a limb and guess A LOT of times. How many times did this result in ANY punishment? I'll guess never.

numike
numike

“Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.” ― Franz Kafka

BillSanDiego
BillSanDiego

GAO is a department in the legislative branch of government, not of the judicial branch. It is staffed by accountants, not lawyers, and its declarations of legality or illegality are utterly meaningless.

Jojo
Jojo

This was a good interview on the Daily Show!

Rick Wilson - Being An Anti-Trump Conservative And "Running Against The Devil" Interview | 1/14/2020

"Running Against the Devil" author Rick Wilson excoriates his fellow conservatives for being unwilling to stand up to President Trump and offers advice for Democrats in 2020.

KidHorn
KidHorn

If the republicans could vote anonymously, Trump would be out. A lot of republicans hate Trump too. Not because of anything he's done. Because he cut to the front of the line. He's not even a politician and he won. The biggest hater still alive is Mitt Romney. McCain despised him more, but he's 6 feet under.

Herkie
Herkie

This is a no win for Moscow Mitch, if he allows legitimate witnesses to testify about the Ukraine scandal to be called Trump is toast. Trump broke the law and his clown car lawyer and comic book goons are flat out guilty, we all know that.

If the turtle looking senate leader refuses to allow witnesses, or uses witnesses to turn the trial into a chaotic circus, such as Rand Paul has promised to do, the GOP will pay for it in November with a blue tsunami. Please remember that the democrats took the house in 2018 and the only reason they did not retake the senate was there were way more democrat seats on the voting block than GOP, this time the shoe is on the other foot. Notice 2018 versus 2020:

2018 "Among the 33 Senate seats up for regular election in 2018, twenty-three were held by Democrats, two by independents who caucused with the Senate Democrats and eight by Republicans."

2020 "Including the special elections in Arizona and Georgia, Republicans will be defending 23 seats in 2020, while the Democratic Party will be defending 12 seats."

The Hill lists as the 5 most vulnerable senators 1 democrat (Jones of Alabama of course; he could beat a republican child rapist but isn't going to beat three contenders that are not proven yet to be rapists) and 4 republicans.

The four are McSally of AZ and she is really hurting in the polls; Tom Tillis of NC who used to be critical of Trump but now is in lockstep with him, in a purple state that has been getting bluer every election. His is the lowest approval rating in the senate. Susan Collins is in danger, her waffling and ultimate betrayal of her electorate on the Kavanaugh confirmation that triggered a CrowdPAC fund for whoever the democratic challenger that got nominated would be, to the tune of $4 million which is huge in Maine, her opponent will start with a war chest that Collins cannot match. But, the challenger also has not got much of a record, to many it looks like the lady woke up one day and said to herself I think I will run for Collins' senate seat. It will be close but don't underestimate the loathing for Collins in Maine. And, Cory Gardener of CO; the state has turned pretty blue, the legislature and governor are solidly democrat now, the new governor Polis is even a gay democrat, and Gardener only won his seat in 2014 by 2 points. Worse for him the very popular former governor Hickenlooper is running as his opponent.

This is very important, and the conduct of the impeachment trial should the GOP not take it seriously is GOING to just wreck them in November.

In that event, with a dem majority in the senate, there will be a second impeachment likely in 2021, and this time it will be with Chuck Schumer as senate leader. There are so many things Trump can be impeached on they can hold annual impeachments for the next 20 years. The man is a walking crime wave.

Those 5 seats are probably gone no matter what happens in the senate with impeachment, but, if Moscow Mitch and the GOP acquit Trump without a FAIR trial they will lose a lot more than that. Nothing will electrify the left as much as a sham trial, and a fair trial would see Trump removed from office, deny it if you want to, the GOP has so little credibility left the only way they win in 2020 is with Sanders as the democratic nominee.

Anon1970
Anon1970

It is too bad that not a single American was charged in meddling in Ukraine's internal affairs back in 2014 when the country was beset by a political revolution that tossed out the old crooks in power and replaced them with new crooks. The revolution was followed by a civil war that has claimed over 13,000 Ukrainian lives and a redrawing of political boundaries. From what I have read, the chief American culprit was Victoria Nuland, then the Assistant Secretary of State for East European Affairs.

It is too bad that the GAO never investigated the US role in the Ukrainian revolution.

awc13
awc13

"Regarding point 1, earlier today, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan Congressional watchdog "

nonpartisan? that is funny

ksdude69
ksdude69

So Biden embezzled Ukraine and Warren lied about being an Indian to get into college and dems have zero problems with them running for the next president.

AWC
AWC

This all rests upon what the partisan meaning of “Illegal” is.

djhowls
djhowls

Trump can be removed from office and still run in 2020. (it will be his first term technically) In fact, part of me wants to see that happen just for the lulz


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