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
Florida sheriff ordered his officers to not wear face masks — and then banned the safety gear
A Florida sheriff ordered his officers to not wear face masks -- and banned the safety gear from his office -- even as the southern US state has hit record daily coronavirus death tolls.
Sheriff Billy Woods, of central Florida's Marion County, emailed deputies Tuesday to tell them of the new mask prohibition, according to local paper the Ocala Star Banner, citing the message.
"My order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office – masks will not be worn," the email read.
The sheriff allowed for certain exceptions, including for officers who work in prisons, schools, hospitals or with people suspected of being infected with the virus.
Fast-moving brush fire north of Los Angeles has prompted mandatory evacuation orders for some 500 homes
A fast-moving brush fire north of Los Angeles prompted mandatory evacuation orders for some 500 homes on Wednesday as firefighters battled the flames that had burned 10,000 acres by early evening, authorities said.
The Lake Fire erupted at around 3:30 pm (2230 GMT) near Lake Hughes, about a 90-minute drive from Los Angeles.
Rapidly-spreading flames had scorched some 10,000 acres (4,050 hectares) within a little more than three hours, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
"Multiple agencies are battling a brush fire near the Lake Hughes area in the Angeles National Forest," the department said in a tweet.
‘Trump should know how to be in public with a woman who publicly humiliated him’: Trevor Noah jokes
"The Daily Show's" Trevor Noah couldn't help but notice President Donald Trump's confusion during the Q&A of his daily coronavirus press briefing. Trump was asked about Vice President Joe Biden's pick as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his running mate. In his attacks on Harris, Trump seemed to be spending more time defending Biden than he did attacking him.
Trump claimed the reason he was surprised Biden picked Harris is that she was "very very nasty to Joe Biden," he said she was "probably nastier even than Pocahontas," his nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). "She was very disrespectful to Joe Biden."