On Thursday, The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a legal opinion concluding that by withholding aid to Ukraine, the Trump administration broke the law because Congress had appropriated those funds and the executive branch, therefore, did not have the right to place any conditions on that aid being delivered.
Now, let’s forget the fact that Ukrainian officials were unaware there was ever any hold on the aid, or that said aid was actually delivered. The Washington Post claims that the foundation of the GOP’s argument against impeachment was “severely undermined” by the GAO ruling, and the left is foaming at the mouth on social media claiming this proves that Trump committed an impeachable offense and the ruling has justified impeachment.
Except, if a GAO legal opinion justifies impeachment, Obama should have been impeached.
That’s right, back in 2014, the GAO ruled that Obama’s prisoner swap of five detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for deserter Bowe Bergdahl violated federal law. “The Department of Defense violated section 8111 of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014 when it transferred five individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the nation of Qatar without providing at least 30-days notice to certain congressional committees,” the GAO explained.
The department also violated another law that prohibits federal employees from spending money not authorized by Congress. “DOD should report its Antideficiency Act violation as required by law,” the GAO said.
At the time of the swap, President Barack Obama defended the move, saying the U.S. has a “sacred rule” not to leave men and women in uniform behind.
“We saw an opportunity,” Mr. Obama said on June 3. “We were concerned about Sgt. Bergdahl’s health. We had the cooperation of the Qataris to execute an exchange, and we seized that opportunity.”
But lawmakers from both sides of the aisle questioned the decision, saying the administration disregarded the 30-day notice provision of the law.
“In this case, the duty to inform Congress could have been easily satisfied and it was not even necessary to violate the law in order to carry out the exchange,” wrote George Washington Law Professor Jonathan Turley at the time the ruling was made. “It seems more likely that this was done for political purposes to avoid opposition in Congress.”
There were no calls for Obama’s impeachment even though he’d broken the law.
But, while we’re talking about GAO rulings, I might as well point out that the GAO also found that Obama had broken the law for failing “to follow its own health reform law in a $5 billion dispute over compensating insurers for high costs from seriously ill patients.” That’s right, Obama didn’t just break the law, he violated his own law, Obamacare.
So, while the current headlines feel like a gotcha moment for left, the only way it would be is if Obama had been impeached when the GAO ruled he’d broken the law.
So… impeach Obama? After all, we don’t want there to be a double standard, now do we?
UPDATE: A tale of two GAO rulings and two very different headlines from WaPo:
GAO says Obama broke the law: WaPo says ¯_(ツ)_/¯
GAO says Trump broke the law: WaPo says POTUS is "severely undermined." pic.twitter.com/UO0HY3gdjp
— Rachel Bovard (@rachelbovard) January 16, 2020
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis