Politico with today’s major development in the impeachment case against President Donald Trump–a clear determination by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that Trump’s withholding of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine was in violation of federal law:
President Donald Trump ordered the hold on the critical security assistance in July, a slew of senior White House officials testified to House impeachment investigators late last year. It was a move that coincided with an effort by the president and his allies to pressure Ukraine to investigate Trump’s Democratic rivals.
“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 GAO wrote in an eight-page report released on Thursday.
Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid, which he reversed in September after House investigators began probing the move, is at the heart of the articles of impeachment the House passed last month, and it will be a central focus in the Senate’s impeachment trial that begins later Thursday.
The report undercuts an oft-stated defense of Trump’s decision to hold the aid back: that it was a lawful exercise of the president’s authority. [Pols emphasis]
The defense that Trump’s actions were not a violation of federal law has been the go-to talking point for Rep. Ken Buck, Colorado’s Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, from the beginning of the impeachment process–along with his bizarre contention that every President commits impeachable offenses so why bother impeaching them at all. That’s obviously difficult to say with any credibility now, though we expect plenty of Republicans will respond by simply disparaging the GAO. At the very least it seems like it will be necessary for Republicans to fall back to the next logical defensive position, “okay you win, it’s a crime but it’s not an impeachable offense.”
As for Sen. Cory Gardner? He’s still telling reporters he hasn’t seen the articles of impeachment. Now that the articles have been formally delivered to the Senate, Gardner will need obviously to ditch that excuse–but what will he say about the GAO’s unambiguous conclusion that Trump’s actions against Ukraine were criminal?
It’s true you’ll have to catch him first. But Gardner is quickly running out of rhetorical cover.