So in reading around some news site commentary, I find that there is an argument prevalent in liberal minds that Trump has to approve all funding approved by congress and has no rights to stop any payments. The point typically being that since nothing else about the faux impeachment holds water. so we’re going to say he must have violated separation of power.
Naturally, I looked up the laws on the matter and found something a little different. First, Ukraine’s funds are a mishmash of rule changes which keep getting extended with modifications. The current mess starts with something called the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.
While the money was allocated by Congress, the funds spent are at the discretion of the defense department.
SEC. 1250. Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.
(a) Authority To provide assistance.—Of the amounts authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2016 by title XV and available for overseas contingency operations as specified in the funding tables in division D, $300,000,000 shall be available to the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to provide appropriate security assistance and intelligence support, including training, equipment, and logistics support, supplies and services, to military and other security forces of the Government of Ukraine for the purposes as follows:
(1) To enhance the capabilities of the military and other security forces of the Government of Ukraine to defend against further aggression.
(2) To assist Ukraine in developing the combat capability to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
(3) To support the Government of Ukraine in defending itself against actions by Russia and Russian-backed separatists that violate the ceasefire agreements of September 4, 2014, and February 11, 2015.
(b) Appropriate security assistance and intelligence support.—For purposes of subsection (a), appropriate security assistance and intelligence support includes the following:
(1) Real time or near real time actionable intelligence, including by lease of such capabilities from United States commercial entities.
(2) Lethal assistance such as anti-armor weapon systems, mortars, crew-served weapons and ammunition, grenade launchers and ammunition, and small arms and ammunition.
(3) Counter-artillery radars, including medium-range and long-range counter-artillery radars that can detect and locate long-range artillery.
(4) Unmanned aerial tactical surveillance systems.
(5) Cyber capabilities.
(6) Counter-electronic warfare capabilities such as secure communications equipment and other electronic protection systems.
(7) Other electronic warfare capabilities.
(8) Training required to maintain and employ systems and capabilities described in paragraphs (1) through (7).
(9) Training for critical combat operations such as planning, command and control, small unit tactics, counter-artillery tactics, logistics, countering improvised explosive devices, battle-field first aid, post-combat treatment, and medical evacuation.
(c) Availability of funds.—
(1) TRAINING.—Up to 20 percent of the amount available pursuant to subsection (a) may be used to support training pursuant to section 1207 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (22 U.S.C. 2151 note), relating to the Global Security Contingency Fund.
(2) DEFENSIVE LETHAL ASSISTANCE.—Subject to paragraph (3), of the amount available pursuant to subsection (a), $50,000,000 shall be available only for lethal assistance described in paragraphs (2) and (3) of subsection (b).
(3) OTHER PURPOSES.—The amount described in paragraph (2) shall be available for purposes other than lethal assistance referred to in that paragraph commencing on the date that is six months after the date of the enactment of this Act if the Secretary of Defense, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, certifies to the congressional defense committees that the use of such amount for purposes of such lethal assistance is not in the national security interests of the United States. The purposes for which the amount may be used pursuant to this paragraph include the following:
(A) Assistance or support to national-level security forces of other Partnership for Peace nations that the Secretary of Defense determines to be appropriate to assist in preserving their sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian aggression.
(B) Exercises and training support of national-level security forces of Partnership for Peace nations or the Government of Ukraine that the Secretary of Defense determines to be appropriate to assist in preserving their sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian aggression.
(d) United States inventory and other sources.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—In addition to any assistance provided pursuant to subsection (a), the Secretary of Defense is authorized, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, to make available to the Government of Ukraine weapons and other defense articles, from the United States inventory and other sources, and defense services, in such quantity as the Secretary of Defense determines to be appropriate to achieve the purposes specified in subsection (a).
(2) REPLACEMENT.—Amounts for the replacement of any items provided to the Government of Ukraine pursuant to paragraph (1) shall be derived from the amount available pursuant to subsection (a) or amounts authorized to be appropriated for the Department of Defense for overseas contingency operations for weapons procurement.
(e) Construction of authorization.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to constitute a specific statutory authorization for the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations wherein hostilities are clearly indicated by the circumstances.
(f) Termination of authority.—Assistance may not be provided under the authority in this section after December 31, 2017.
(g) Extension of reports on military assistance to Ukraine.—Section 1275(e) of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (Public Law 113–291; 128 Stat. 3592) is amended by striking “January 31, 2017” and inserting “December 31, 2017”.
My bold of course. If assistance were guaranteed and not discretionary, what is the end date for? It’s obviously a giant checking account to be used as the defense department determines necessary. There have been a number of changes to this document as it has been extended, but none address or alter the fact that the spending is discretionary per the requirements of the Defense department, which allegedly works at the pleasure of the commander in chief.
The orange guy has the right to NOT spend this money.
In each case the money was authorized to be spent but in no case was it required to be spent. You can argue that there are reasons the money shouldn’t have been withheld but without any (imaginary or real) NEFARIOUS!! reasons, Trump has full rights to withhold it.