Does It Matter Why Trump Held Up Money Bound For Ukraine?

Not everyone is following the televised impeachment hearing testimony. If you’re not, then here are the highlights: Democrats are trying to make a case that President Trump held up a Ukraine security aid package in order to extort or bribe “a favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. It’s a good case based on the facts. 

Republicans are saying that the Democrats are all wrong, and that the only reason they’re moving forward on impeachment is because that was the plan since Trump was elected. They say that Trump held up security aid because he was disturbed by corruption in Ukraine, which is why he asked for investigations regarding long-ago debunked conspiracy theories he himself helped make popular. Trump, there, is not guilty of high crimes or misdemeanors, they say. It’s a bad case based on voter sentiment and emotion, but not the fact.

But then again, it doesn’t really matter what story you believe: Trump blatantly committed illegal acts by holding up the money for any reason — because he didn’t notify Congress that he was doing it.

You see, the power of the American purse belongs to Congress — and only Congress.

The Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (ICA) was written in order to guarantee that a president couldn’t just willy-nilly subvert the law and take that power away from Congress to instead meet the purported needs of the Executive branch. But that’s exactly what Trump did.

The law was written because other presidents have tried to do exactly the same thing in the past. Nixon decided to withhold Congressionally appropriated monies if he didn’t agree with how or where they were to be spent. The ICA gives presidents the ability to impound or defer Congressionally appropriated monies only for certain reasons, none of which jive with “I was worried about corruption, but only after you caught me.”

And it’s that Republican defense that really rubs everyone else the wrong way. They say that there was no wrong done because Trump eventually released the security aid package to Ukraine. The problem is, he didn’t do this until Congress found out he was holding it up in the first place — something he is, by law, required to tell them about under the ICA. More than that, he’s required to tell them why he thinks he has the authority to do it. He did no such thing.

That’s illegal — and certainly meets the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors required to impeach a sitting president. He withheld Congressionally approved money illegally, he failed to give a reason for his decision (and still hasn’t); also illegal, and what’s more, we know that the Trump administration was told that these were illegal acts and how to follow the law — but he decided to break it anyway. That’s as blatant an overreach of presidential authority as there has ever been.