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Old 01-16-2020, 04:33 PM
Max S. is offline
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Did President Trump direct OMB to violate the Impoundment Control Act?


There's two questions here. First, did the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) violate the Impoundment Control Act? Second, did President Trump direct such a violation?

I think the answer to both questions is yes.

As of today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) also says OMB violated the law. Read their decision here: https://www.gao.gov/products/B-331564

I would prefer we leave out the question of whether impoundment is an impeachable offense. That can have it's own thread.

~Max
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Old 01-16-2020, 04:45 PM
Max S. is offline
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Max's Argument


Reproduced below is my argument from the Trump Inquiry thread, which is probably inferior to GAO's decision:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
[...]The short of it is that Congress enacted a law appropriating a sum of money must be sent to Ukraine, but the President after signing that law directed his officers to withhold the funds. That is a violation of another law that says you can't defer apportionment of appropriated funds except on specific grounds which I don't think were met. Therefore the president directed his officers to violate the law, [...]

I invite you to dissuade me from this position, contrary to your own. I have put a more detailed argument in the spoiler, and I recommend you check your refutation against the full argument although I am more than happy to defend myself as your replies come.

~Max

SPOILER:
The law in question is Section 1250, the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative section, of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, Pub. L. No. 114-92, 129 Stat. 1068 (NDAA FY2016) as amended by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, Pub. L. No. 114-328, 130 Stat. 2494 (NDAA FY2017), the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-91, 131 Stat. 1659 (NDAA FY2018), and the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, Pub. L. No. 115-232, 132 Stat. 2049 (NDAA FY2019).

I don't believe this law is written into the United States Code as it is a budget law. That means we get to compile all four acts ourselves to see how the law actually stands since August 13, 2018. In the essence of saving space, I will post the resulting section of law, and if you want to check my work you can look at the underlying public laws and recreate it yourself. The Statute page numbers above go straight to the Ukraine Security Assistance section, and if you download the PDF files from the below links they are paginated accordingly.

NDAA FY2016: https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/p...-114publ92.pdf (1.7 MB)
NDAA FY2017: https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/p...114publ328.pdf (2.6 MB)
NDAA FY2018: https://www.congress.gov/115/plaws/p...-115publ91.pdf (2.1 MB)
NDAA FY2019: https://www.congress.gov/115/plaws/p...115publ232.pdf (2.1 MB)

And here is the law as amended by all three subsequent acts:
SPOILER:
SEC. 1250. UKRAINE SECURITY ASSISTANCE INITIATIVE.
(a) Authority To Provide Assistance.--Amounts available for a fiscal year under subsection (f) shall be available to the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to provide appropriate security assistance and intelligence support, including training, equipment, and logistics support, supplies and services, to military and other security forces of the Government of Ukraine for the purposes as follows:
(1) To enhance the capabilities of the military and other security forces of the Government of Ukraine to defend against further aggression.
(2) To assist Ukraine in developing the combat capability to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
(3) To support the Government of Ukraine in defending itself against actions by Russia and Russian-backed separatists that violate the ceasefire agreements of September 4, 2014, and February 11, 2015.
(b) Appropriate Security Assistance and Intelligence Support.--For purposes of subsection (a), appropriate security assistance and intelligence support includes the following:
(1) Real time or near real time actionable intelligence, including by lease of such capabilities from United States commercial entities.
(2) Lethal assistance such as anti-armor weapon systems, mortars, crew-served weapons and ammunition, grenade launchers and ammunition, and small arms and ammunition.
(3) Counter-artillery radars, including medium-range and long-range counter-artillery radars that can detect and locate long-range artillery.
(4) Unmanned aerial tactical surveillance systems.
(5) Cyber capabilities.
(6) Counter-electronic warfare capabilities such as secure communications equipment and other electronic protection systems.
(7) Other electronic warfare capabilities.
(8) Training for critical combat operations such as planning, command and control, small unit tactics, counter-artillery tactics, logistics, countering improvised explosive devices, battle-field first aid, post-combat treatment, and medical evacuation.
(9) Equipment and technical assistance to the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine for the purpose of developing a comprehensive border surveillance network for Ukraine.
(10) Training for staff officers and senior leadership of the military.
(11) Air defense and coastal defense radars.
(12) Naval mine and counter-mine capabilities.
(13) Littoral-zone and coastal defense vessels.
(14) Training required to maintain and employ systems and capabilities described in paragraphs (1) through (13).
(15) Treatment of wounded Ukrainian soldiers in the United States in medical treatment facilities through the Secretarial Designee Program, including transportation, lodging, meals, and other appropriate non-medical support in connection with such treatment, and education and training for Ukrainian healthcare specialists such that they can provide continuing care and rehabilitation services for wounded Ukrainian soldiers.
(c) Availability of Funds.--
(1) Assistance for Ukraine.--Not more than 50 percent of the funds available for fiscal year 2019 pursuant to subsection (f)(4) may be used for purposes of subsection (a) until the certification described in paragraph (2) is made.
(2) Certification.--
(A) In general.--The certification described in this paragraph is a certification by the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, that the Government of Ukraine has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms, in such areas as described in subparagraph (B), for purposes of decreasing corruption, increasing accountability, and sustaining improvements of combat capability enabled by assistance under subsection (a).
(B) Areas described.--The areas described in this subparagraph are--
(i) strengthening civilian control of the military;
(ii) enhanced cooperation and coordination with Verkhovna Rada efforts to exercise oversight of the Ministry of Defense and military forces;
(iii) increased transparency and accountability in defense procurement;
(iv) improvement in transparency, accountability, sustainment, and inventory management in the defense industrial sector; and
(v) protection of proprietary or sensitive technologies as such technologies relate to foreign military sales or transfers.
(C) Assessment.--The certification shall include an assessment of the substantial actions taken to make such defense institutional reforms and the areas in which additional action is needed and a description of the methodology used to evaluate whether Ukraine has made progress in defense institutional reforms relative to previously established goals and objectives.
(3) Other purposes.--If in fiscal year 2019 funds are not available for purposes of subsection (a) by reason of the lack of a certification described in paragraph (2), such funds may be used in that fiscal year for the purposes as follows:
(A) Assistance or support to national-level security forces of other Partnership for Peace nations that the Secretary of Defense determines to be appropriate to assist in preserving their sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian aggression.
(B) Exercises and training support of national-level security forces of Partnership for Peace nations or the Government of Ukraine that the Secretary of Defense determines to be appropriate to assist in preserving their sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian aggression.
(4) Notice to congress.--Not later than 15 days before providing assistance or support under paragraph (3), the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees, the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives a notification containing the following:
(A) The recipient foreign country.
(B) A detailed description of the assistance or support to be provided, including--
(i) the objectives of such assistance or support;
(ii) the budget for such assistance or support; and
(iii) the expected or estimated timeline for delivery of such assistance or support.
(C) Such other matters as the Secretary considers appropriate.
(5) Lethal assistance.--Of the funds available for fiscal year 2019 pursuant to subsection (f)(4), $50,000,000 shall be available only for lethal assistance described in paragraphs (2) and (3) of subsection (b).
(d) United States Inventory and Other Sources.--
(1) In general.--In addition to any assistance provided pursuant to subsection (a), the Secretary of Defense is authorized, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, to make available to the Government of Ukraine weapons and other defense articles, from the United States inventory and other sources, and defense services, in such quantity as the Secretary of Defense determines to be appropriate to achieve the purposes specified in subsection (a).
(2) Replacement.--Amounts for the replacement of any items provided to the Government of Ukraine pursuant to paragraph (1) shall be derived from the amount available pursuant to subsection (a) or amounts authorized to be appropriated for the Department of Defense for overseas contingency operations for weapons procurement.
(e) Construction of Authorization.--Nothing in this section shall be construed to constitute a specific statutory authorization for the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations wherein hostilities are clearly indicated by the circumstances.
(f) Funding.--From amounts authorized to be appropriated for the fiscal year concerned for the Department of Defense for overseas contingency operations, up to the following shall be available for purposes of subsection (a):
(1) For fiscal year 2016, $300,000,000.
(2) For fiscal year 2017, $350,000,000.
(3) For fiscal year 2018, $350,000,000.
(4) For fiscal year 2019, $250,000,000.
(g) Construction With Other Authority.--The authority to provide assistance and support pursuant to subsection (a), and the authority to provide assistance and support under subsection (c), is in addition to authority to provide assistance and support under title 10, United States Code, the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the Arms Export Control Act, or any other provision of law.
(h) Termination of Authority.--Assistance may not be provided under the authority in this section after December 31, 2021.

The act as amended provides the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, with authorization to spend up to $250 million from to-be-appropriated funds in fiscal year 2019. As a caveat, only $125 million can be spent unless the secretaries certify:

According to NPR, the Undersecretary of Defense submitted the requisite certification in May. They link to a copy of the letter, if you want to read it. This is also verified Ambassador Taylor's recent testimony, I don't have a transcript handy but I heard him say it was certified.

Congress provided the appropriations with section 9013 of the Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act, 2019 and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2019, Pub. L. No. 115-245, 132 Stat. 3044. This is available from https://www.congress.gov/115/plaws/p...115publ245.pdf (645 KB), and I have reproduced it in the spoiler:
SPOILER:
Sec. 9013. For the "Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative", $250,000,000 is hereby appropriated, to remain available until September 30, 2019: Provided, That such funds shall be available to the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to provide assistance, including training; equipment; lethal assistance; logistics support, supplies and services; sustainment; and intelligence support to the military and national security forces of Ukraine, and for replacement of any weapons or articles provided to the Government of Ukraine from the inventory of the United States: Provided further, That of the amounts made available in this section, $50,000,000 shall be available only for lethal assistance described in paragraphs (2) and (3) of section 1250(b) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (Public Law 114-92; 129 Stat. 1068): Provided further, That the Secretary of Defense shall, not less than 15 days prior to obligating funds provided under this heading, notify the congressional defense committees in writing of the details of any such obligation: Provided further, That the United States may accept equipment procured using funds provided under this heading in this or prior Acts that was transferred to the security forces of Ukraine and returned by such forces to the United States: Provided further, That equipment procured using funds provided under this heading in this or prior Acts, and not yet transferred to the military or National Security Forces of Ukraine or returned by such forces to the United States, may be treated as stocks of the Department of Defense upon written notification to the congressional defense committees: Provided further, That amounts made available by this section are designated by the Congress for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(ii) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

Basically it appropriates $250 million.

If you are wondering, "who says that the President has to spend all of the money appropriated?" there's a complex and interesting history to that - basically, blame Nixon. But the current state of affairs is the Impoundment Control Act of 1974 as later amended, presently codified under Title 2 Chapter 17B of the United States Code.

2 U.S.C. § 682 (1) reads:

and 2 U.S.C. § 684 (b) reads:

I do not believe it is disputed that the expenditure of budget authority provided for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative was withheld or delayed. Ambassador Taylor testified watching an OMB staffer literally announce that the funds were being withheld. I believe Mr. Trump himself admitted that he was "withholding" aid at a press release from the UN.

Now, it is true that "contingencies" can mean almost any specific circumstance, but I am fairly confident the use of that word here means to set aside money in case it is needed for some emergency, a la the usage in the Budget Control Act. Deferring the apportionment of appropriated money because of unforeseen corruption concerns is exactly the sort of thing Congress explicitly removed from the Anti-Deficiency Act when they passed the Impoundment Control Act. There used to be a provision in there for that kind of exception, until Nixon abused it.
The savings exception is for things like reducing government waste, and I don't see any way of that being applicable. Neither do I think the appropriation law itself had a relevant clause, except the halving of funds if the Secretary of Defense does not certify Ukraine. But Ukraine was certified, so that doesn't apply, either.

~Max
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
The apportionment process is covered by the Anti-Deficiency Act and the Impoundment Control Act. The former has the thirty-day requirement, although I believe that was met for the first $125 million. After the Secretary of Defense certified Ukraine in May, the President needed to apportion the second $125 million and that's where the problem comes in. It took him over 100 days where normally it only takes 30, so I'm saying that's a deferral under the Impoundment Control Act. But the statutory procedures when deferring appropriated funds were not followed, and there lies the problem.

I'll put details and cites in this spoiler.
SPOILER:
Of relevance is 31 U.S.C. § 1513 (b) which specifically says the President is personally responsible for making the apportionment by the later of "20 days before the beginning of the fiscal year for which the appropriation is available" or "30 days after the date of enactment of the law by which the appropriation is made available." The President has chosen to delegate this responsibility to the Office of Management and Budget, but if they mess up, especially on his orders, it's on him.

The point of bringing this up is that the apportionment process is a quick one. By statute it must be achievable within thirty days of the apportionment law's passage.

In this case, the appropriation law was signed on September 28, 2018. Presumably the funds were apportioned (divided according to a plan, not necessarily expended) within the above time frame.

Now, it just so happens that the authorization law from August 13, 2018 conditioned some $125 million on the certification process. That didn't happen until May of 2019, so presumably the initial apportionment over fiscal year 2019 only accounted for $125 million. This is supported by John Rood's letter of certification which you can read at NPR. In that May document Mr. Rood informs Congress that the Department of Defense will start spending the other $125 million "no sooner than 15 days" later. The funds were not spent at all until September 11.

Technically September 11 is "no sooner than 15 days" after the end of May. It's at least 103 days, which is more than 15. The problem is that a 103 day delay is most definitely a deferral of budget authority as defined by the Impoundment Control Act, 2 U.S.C. § 682 (1). That Act differentiates between two kinds of impoundment the President may effect, deferral (defined in § 682 as "withholding or delaying the [...] expenditure of budget authority") and rescission (described in § 683 as basically not spending all of the appropriated funds by the end of the fiscal year).

Rescissions require the President to ask Congress for approval, and this ask is automatically denied if Congress does not reply within 45 days (§ 683). The current case has a 103 day delay, so if it was in fact a rescission then the President still violated the law.

Deferrals also require Congressional approval although a 2012 CRS report seems to imply that the President can defer expenditure of appropriated funds for up to 45 days pending the resolution of a rescission request. Notably, § 682 says deferrals may not extend past the end of the fiscal year (that would be a rescission).

So holding funds up in the apportionment process for 103 days can't be business as normal, which would be within thirty days at most. It can't be a rescission because the funds were ultimately apportioned and released before the end of the fiscal year - even if it was, that is equally bad for the President. Therefore it must be a deferral, but the proper procedures were not met, and the president directed his officers to violate the law.

[...]
~Max
~Max
  #3  
Old 01-16-2020, 05:20 PM
elucidator is offline
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The President is charged with executing the laws and instructions of Congress, hence, "executive". He is not entitled hang the ones he doesn't much like.
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Old 01-16-2020, 06:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elucidator View Post
The President is charged with executing the laws and instructions of Congress, hence, "executive". He is not entitled hang the ones he doesn't much like.
Do you mean like Deferred Action?
  #5  
Old 01-16-2020, 06:58 PM
Max S. is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by D'Anconia View Post
Do you mean like Deferred Action?
With all due respect, I don't think deferred action would trigger of the Impoundment Control Act. We're talking about impounding funds here.

~Max
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Old 01-16-2020, 07:31 PM
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There’s literally no coherent argument to the contrary. Of course the President broke the law here.
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Old 01-16-2020, 08:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ravenman View Post
There’s literally no coherent argument to the contrary. Of course the President broke the law here.
I think the argument that could be framed is the MAGA one:

"Screw you! Trump can do whatever he damn well pleases, because he's the bestest preserdent ever!"
  #8  
Old 01-20-2020, 03:05 PM
Max S. is offline
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Very well, without objection I invite you all to visit the new thread, "Is President Trump's violation of the Impoundment Control Act an impeachable offense?"

~Max
  #9  
Old 01-16-2020, 06:52 PM
elucidator is offline
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Yeah, what about that?
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Old 01-16-2020, 08:01 PM
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What Ravenman said. This is flat out flaunting.... his ability to flout the law! Ha ha!
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Old 01-16-2020, 09:04 PM
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When this news broke I wandered over to r/conservative to see what the party line was going to be. Unsurprisingly most people seemed to be ignoring it, but there were, nearest I can tell, two arguments various people put forth.

1) The GAO is clearly a bunch of butthurt deep state bureaucrats whose opinions should be ignored, and

2) This is no big deal, the OMB and the Trump administration can just make adjustments to their policies so that this doesn't happen again, that's what policy watchdogs are for after all.


I think we can all agree that the mouth breathers who eschew opinion 1 can be summarily ignored, but my response (that I only post here, of course) to those putting forth argument 2 is thus: I would LOVE if the Trump administration admitted fault and made policy changes to prevent this from happening in the future. Because in a way they're right, at least about the role of the GAO -- most GAO findings aren't going to result in impeachment or anything, they're just going to shine a light on problems within the government that need to be fixed. And then a responsible government will, you know, admit fault and fix those problems.

That's not going to happen here, of course. Instead, the Trump administration and the powers that be within the OMB will admit no fault, say they did nothing wrong, and attack anyone who dare says otherwise. Anyone who points out what an insane response this is to a reasonable report produced by the well-respected GAO will be accused of Trump Derangement Syndrome, and probably called a libtard soy boy cuck. And lastly, Trump will double down on using appropriated funds to manipulate foreign governments to his advantage.

Last edited by steronz; 01-16-2020 at 09:06 PM.
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Old 01-16-2020, 09:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steronz View Post
When this news broke I wandered over to r/conservative to see what the party line was going to be. Unsurprisingly most people seemed to be ignoring it, but there were, nearest I can tell, two arguments various people put forth.

1) The GAO is clearly a bunch of butthurt deep state bureaucrats whose opinions should be ignored, and

2) This is no big deal, the OMB and the Trump administration can just make adjustments to their policies so that this doesn't happen again, that's what policy watchdogs are for after all.
I see they haven’t caught on to D’Anconia’s line:

3) But Obama!
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Old 01-16-2020, 09:47 PM
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I see they haven’t caught on to D’Anconia’s line:

3) But Obama!
Oh there was plenty of that too, I just didn't think it was relevant to the thread.
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Old 01-17-2020, 12:38 AM
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I'm waiting for:
  • There's no violation of the law unless there's a conviction;
  • Trump can't be investigated, let alone convicted.
Repeat ad infinitum (or nauseam, whichever comes first).
  #15  
Old 01-17-2020, 07:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OttoDaFe View Post
I'm waiting for:
  • There's no violation of the law unless there's a conviction;
  • Trump can't be investigated, let alone convicted.
Repeat ad infinitum (or nauseam, whichever comes first).
Uh, we're already past the second one, so I guess it's whatever comes last.
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