On Wednesday, the Office of Management and Budget released a memo offering an explanation for the Trump administration’s decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine earlier this year: OMB needed to make sure the funds weren’t being released “prematurely.” But legal journalist Jerry Lambe, in a December 12 article for Law & Crime, notes that not everyone finds that explanation convincing.
House Democrats, this week, officially announced two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump: one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and other Democrats are arguing that Trump abused his power when, on July 25, he tried to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden — and withheld military aid to Ukraine while awaiting the investigation.
In the Wednesday memo, OMB General Counsel Mark Paoletta wrote, “It was OMB’s understanding that that a brief period was needed, prior to the funds expiring, to engage in a policy process regarding those funds. OMB took appropriate action, in light of a pending policy process, to ensure that funds were not obligated prematurely in a manner that could conflict with the president’s foreign policy.”
The White House budget office asserts in a new legal memo that it withheld aid to Ukraine this summer to “engage in a policy process.”https://t.co/X6yLHmJK5t
— Vicky Ward (@VickyPJWard) December 12, 2019
In the memo, Paoletta asserted that OMB has “significant discretion in determining how and when funds are released.”
“For decades,” Paoletta wrote, “OMB has routinely used its apportionment authority to prevent funds from being used. Often, in managing appropriations, OMB must briefly pause an agency’s legal ability to spend those funds for a number of reasons, including to ensure that the funds are being spent efficiently, that they are being spent in accordance with statutory directives, or to assess how or whether funds should be used for a particular activity.”
But as Lambe points out, some legal experts find that explanation problematic — for example, CNN’s Elie Honig, who tweeted, “This would’ve been much more convincing if it had been written *before* the scandal was exposed.”
This would’ve been much more convincing if it had been written *before* the scandal was exposed. https://t.co/k68vVv2Nu4
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) December 12, 2019
Lambe also notes that according to OMB official Mark Sandy, withholding military aid to Ukraine “was highly unusual and led to two career OMB officials tendering their resignation.”
On top of that, Lambe adds, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed in an October press conference that part of the reason aid to Ukraine was withheld was to make sure that the country investigated the United States’ 2016 presidential election.
And that policy was to get Ukraine to announce publicly an investigation into Joe Biden. No actual investigation was necessary because this policy was to use the power of the presidency and financial aid to attack Trump’s political enemy.
— Kranston Howell (@KranstonH) December 12, 2019
Lev Parnas’s lawyer declared ‘open war’ on AG Bill Barr during Maddow interview: attorney
The attorney for Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas appears to be using a novel legal strategy, attorney Luppe Luppen explained on Friday.
Joseph Bondy, the attorney for Parnas, was interviewed Friday evening by Rachel Maddow, following the day's end of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
Luppen, who offers legal analysis on his popular @nycsouthpaw Twitter account, came to a conclusion that seemed to surprise him after watching the interview.
"I’ve never seen a lawyer sit on a cable panel show and make that much news," Luppen wrote.
Democratic prosecutors wrap up case against Trump
Democratic prosecutors on Friday wrapped up three days of arguments for seeking Donald Trump's removal from office, as the US president's lawyers prepared to take their turn presenting his defense in the Senate's historic impeachment trial.
For a final eight-hour stretch, the 100 senators listened as Democrats argued that Trump abused the power of the presidency in pressuring Ukraine to launch investigations that would help him politically and then sought to block efforts by Congress to investigate.
Democrats said they had met the burden of proof as they warned Republicans that Trump would remain a grave danger to the nation if left in office.
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"She shook her head and said, 'No they didn't. No, that's not true,'" Raju reported.
Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Jim Risch (R-ID) Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and John Barrasso also said that the report was false.