“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.” That is the reasoning of the Government Accounting Office, which has just concluded that President Trump’s budget office violated federal law in freezing U.S. aid to Ukraine.
It certainly would have been nice to hear this from the GAO when President Obama was imposing his own immigration policy priorities by executive edict and as a substitute for contrary priorities Congress had enacted into law.
In any event, the finding is in an eight-page report by which the reputedly non-partisan CBO has plunged itself headlong into the deeply partisan impeachment controversy just hours before the Senate impeachment trial is to commence (at least ceremonially; the substantive commencement of the trial will occur next Tuesday).
So … what is the upshot? Are Democrats preparing the ground for another article of impeachment? Obviously, the law that President Trump is said to have violated is not a criminal statute. And it is simply not true that the president never has the authority to countermand a congressional statute prescribing foreign aid; Article II of the Constitution gives the president nigh plenary power over the conduct of foreign relations; and other congressional statutes (such as the International Emergency Economic Powers Act) confer sweeping power on the president to regulate foreign commerce if the nation is under threat or in a state of emergency.