White House snubbed watchdog agency seeking info on Ukraine aid

The White House declined to provide documents to a congressional watchdog investigating President Donald Trump's decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine, according to documents released Thursday by Sen. Chris Van Hollen.

The White House responded to the Government Accountability Office's inquiry with a one-page letter on Dec. 20, citing a legal memo from the Office of Management and Budget that defended the hold on military aid as necessary to ensure spending the funds wouldn't "conflict with the President's foreign policy."

"The White House does not plan to respond separately to your letters," wrote Brian Miller, a senior associate counsel to Trump, who indicated that the GAOinquiry was meant for acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House counsel Pat Cipollone. Cipollone is now Trump's lead attorney in an impeachment trial that centers on his decision to freeze Ukraine's military assistance.

The correspondence is part of what led GAO to accuse the Trump administration of blocking its inquiry and conclude last week that Trump's decision to withhold military aid violated federal law. Democrats have cited that decision as they press their case that Trump should be removed from office for pressuring Ukraine's president to investigate Democrats, including 2020 rival Joe Biden. Democrats allege that Trump used the hold on military aid to raise pressure on Ukraine.

"Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law," GAO's report concluded.

The documents released by Van Hollen (D-Md.) indicate that GAO had asked the White House budget office for details on how the hold on military aid complied with the Impoundment Control Act, the law the GAO argues Trump violated.

The documents also included a response to the inquiry from the Pentagon, which suggested it couldn't respond to GAO's inquiry without first engaging in "coordination with the other agencies involved."

Van Hollen ripped the Trump administration for refusing to cooperate with GAO.

"The White House refused to respond altogether and blocked DOD from providing an independent response as well," he said in a statement. "This is another example of the Administration's continued attempts to cover up their wrongdoing and unlawful actions."

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