Democrats and journalists were excited Thursday when the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a legal opinion that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had violated the Impoundment Control Act by withholding congressionally appropriated aid to Ukraine last summer.
The non-binding opinion was disputed by the OMB, which released a memo last month arguing that the “programmatic” delay sought to fulfill, not oppose, congressional intent.
The GAO decision, which had been requested by Democrat Senator Chris van Hollen of Maryland, disagreed, concluding that the delay had been for “policy reasons,” not “programmatic delay.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) cited the decision in her morning press conference — though she had trouble pronouncing the word “impoundment” — and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) likewise trumpeted the GAO decision as a vindication of the House impeachment.
Though the GAO works for Congress, it is not the finder of fact in impeachment cases. Moreover, it is not even clear that the Impoundment Control Act is constitution.
Nevertheless, if a mere GAO finding is sufficient to justify impeachment, then President Barack Obama ought to have been impeached at least seven times over for each of the following cases in which the GAO found that the Obama administration had violated federal law.
.The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and United States Secret Service (USSS) were found to have violated section 503 of the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, and the Antideficiency Act, in 2009 after the Secret Service reported that it had overspent on candidate protection in 2008 by $5,100,000, and used money from another program to cover the shortfall. DHS failed to notify Congress 15 days in advance of the “reprogramming.”
.The Department of the Treasury was found to have violated the Antideficiency Act in 2014 when it used the voluntary services of four individuals. “Treasury did not appoint any of the individuals to federal employment, nor did any individual qualify as a student who may, under certain circumstances, perform voluntary service,” the GAO found, adding that there was no emergency that might have justified using the individuals to perform several months of work without receiving pay.
.The Department of Defense was found to have violated the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014 and the Antideficiency Act in the infamous Bowe Bergdahl swap, when President Barack Obama traded five high-level Taliban detainees for a U.S. Army deserter. The administration transferred the five Taliban from Guantanamo Bay without notifying relevant congressional committees 30 days in advance, as required by law. Republicans complained; Democrats were silent.
.The Department of Housing and Urban Development was found to have violated the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, and the Antideficiency Act in 2014 when the deputy secretary of the department sent an email to “friends and colleagues” asking them to lobby the Senate in favor of a bill appropriating money to the department, and against amendments offered by Republican Senators.
.The Environmental Protection Agency was found to have violated “publicity or propaganda and anti-lobbying provisions” in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act and the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act in 2015 by using some of the department’s social media accounts in rule-making for the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) regulations (which have since been repealed under the Trump administration).
.Two officials in the Department of Housing and Urban Development were found in 2016 to have violated Section 713 of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act by attempting to prevent a regional director within the agency from being interviewed by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. (Notably, the GAO reversed its earlier decision that the department’s general counsel had not violated the law once it was presented with more evidence.)
.The Federal Maritime Commission was found to have violated Section 711 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, as well as the Antideficiency Act, in 2016 when it failed to notify the relevant Senate and House committees that it had spent more than $5,000 to furnish and redecorate the office of its former director in 2010. (The total amount spent was $12,084 over three years, as noted by the GAO in a footnote reference to an inspector general’s report on the excessive expenditures.)
Needless to say, Obama was never impeached.