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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Presidential Impoundment

One aspect of the impeachment inquiry that is not getting enough attention is that the President almost certainly broke the law by holding up the Ukraine aid no matter what his reason was. The money was appropriated by Congress. All of the statutory conditions for releasing the funds were met. But the money was not released for months.

The Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which was enacted after President Nixon's aggressive impoundment of appropriated funds, says that Presidents must spend appropriated money within 45 days unless the specific appropriation says otherwise. If the money is not spent, then the President must explain himself and get Congress's approval for the refusal to spend. Needless to say, in this case the President did not explain himself to Congress and did not seek approval 45 days after the Ukraine aid was appropriated.

Impoundment itself is not an impeachable offense (at least when done once) but the act of impoundment refutes the argument that no laws were violated in this situation.

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on November 17, 2019 at 05:57 PM | Permalink


I don't think you're stating the law correctly. Funds are not always disbursed within 45 of the appropriation, and in this case they had been appropriated long before Trump put a hold them.

Posted by: brad | Nov 20, 2019 10:30:58 PM

Extortion is generally defined as the use of an improper or unlawful threat in order to obtain money, property, or some other thing of value. The fact that the OMB "hold" on the aid was unlawful (the Act requires notice to Congress for such holds and forbids them for the purpose of adding new conditions on funding) makes it more likely that the threat represented by the "hold" is properly characterized as extortionate.

Larry Rosenthal

Posted by: Larry Rosenthal | Nov 18, 2019 5:20:07 PM

Re the breaking of a law: some years ago the Wall St Journal had an article the theme of which was that over the years Congress has made so many actions illegal that we all have likely unknowingly violated some federal criminal statute at some point. I put that thesis to a former federal prosecutor and, after some thought, he agreed.

The issue I think is not whether laws were broken but who serious was the violation.

Posted by: Bob Johnson | Nov 18, 2019 2:19:12 PM

By the way, the act can be reached here:


Posted by: El roam | Nov 17, 2019 8:43:01 PM

Indeed, that is an issue. It is very recommended to read the letter from Congress to the Vice president. One may find there, important details and footnotes, concerning that delay in the transfer of that fund.Here:



Posted by: El roam | Nov 17, 2019 7:35:17 PM

I remember when Congress voted to give lethal aid to Ukraine and the Obama administration sent blankets. Weird...no series of posts on here back then about presidential lawlessness.

Posted by: thegreatdisappointment | Nov 17, 2019 6:50:56 PM

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