2014: GAO Says Obama Broke The Law--Why No Calls For Impeachment?

catkinZ8a

womp womp

GAO said Barack Obama broke the law in 2014 but no calls for impeachment

By M. Dowling -January 16, 2020


In 2014, then-President Barack Obama arranged a trade of five Taliban prisoners in GITMO for deserter Bowe Bergdahl. Obama never ran it by Congress, although he had time to do so despite his claims to the contrary.


Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle were skeptical of Obama’s claims that he had to hurry due to Bergdahl’s health. Upon his return, it turned out his health was not endangered.


The GAO came out with a report claiming the Administration did, in fact, violate the law by not notifying Congress.


The President reallocated funds for the transfer (bribe), an action that was also illegal.

The department violated a 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.

OBAMA DIDN’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH BREAKING THE LAW

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.”


The Defense Department notified Congress of the transfer in writing on May 31, after the fact.


According to the GAO letter, the department said its actions complied with the law and, in any event, the relevant portion of the law is unconstitutional as applied to the Bergdahl transfer.


Providing notice “would have interfered with the executive’s performance of two related functions that the Constitution assigns to the President: protecting the lives of Americans abroad and protecting U.S. service members,” the department said in reply to a GAO inquiry.


The watchdog didn’t weigh in on the constitutionality of the law but noted that it had been signed by the president.


Most presidents believe the law is unconstitutional, but still, he also reallocated funds.


George Washington Law Professor Jonathan Turley said “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. It seems more likely that this was done for political purposes to avoid opposition in Congress.”


POLITICAL PURPOSES!


“The GAO found the obvious violation and added that the Pentagon broke another law by using funds that were not technically available.


The GAO also concluded that the Obama Administration violated the Antideficiency Act, barring spending by agencies above the amount of money that Congress has obligated,” Turley said.


No one called for his impeachment. Why is that? Oh, right, he is a Democrat.


https://www.independentsentinel.com/gao-said-barack-obama-broke-the-law-in-2014-but-no-calls-for-impeachment/


WASHINGTON—The Obama administration violated the law when it failed to give Congress adequate notice about the transfer of five detainees from Guantanamo Bay as part of a swap for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the investigative arm of Congress said Thursday.
Sgt. Bergdahl was released after nearly five years of captivity in Afghanistan as part of a May 31 exchange for five Taliban detainees held at a U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“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 Government Accountability Office said in response to a letter from Republican lawmakers, including Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, and Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby.
That provision prohibits the Defense Department from using government funds to transfer individuals from Guantanamo unless it notifies Congress at least 30 days in advance.
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.
The Defense Department notified Congress of the transfer in writing on May 31.
According to the GAO letter, the department said its actions complied with the law and, in any event, the relevant portion of the law is unconstitutional as applied to the Bergdahl transfer.
Providing notice “would have interfered with the executive’s performance of two related functions that the Constitution assigns to the president: protecting the lives of Americans abroad and protecting U.S. service members,” the department said in reply to a GAO inquiry.
The watchdog didn’t weigh in on the constitutionality of the law but noted that it had been signed by the president.

The GAO found the obvious violation and added that the Pentagon broke another law by using funds that were not technically available. The GAO also concluded that the Obama Administration violated the Antideficiency Act, barring spending by agencies above the amount of money that Congress has obligated.

The appropriations dimension is another example of how the Administration has circumvented the “power of the purse” which is often cited as the core congressional check on presidential power. Indeed, as I have discussed in recent testimony, the Administration has repeatedly shown that this power is becoming something of a constitutional myth (despite the fact that it is often cited as a reason not to recognize standing by members in challenging unlawful acts of a president). The law in this case was part of a Defense spending bill states that no money can be used to transfer Guantanamo prisoners to another country “except in accordance” with a law requiring that the secretary of Defense to notify key congressional committees at least 30 days before such a transfer.

In this case, the swap occurred May 31 but the committees were only notified between May 31 and June 2. The finding also puts to rest the spin put out by advocates that Congress was notified by the White House.

When some of use raised the violation of federal law as obvious at the time, many supporters of the White House insisted that there was no violation and that this was another partisan attack. However, the GAO found the violation “clear and unambiguous” and said that the Administration was dismissive of “the significance of the express language” in the law.


https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/Politics-Voices/2014/0825/Obama-broke-the-law-in-Bergdahl-release-deal-GAO-report-says

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catkinZ8a


Obama broke the law.


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catkinZ8a

Obama broke the law.


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catkinZ8a

Obama broke the law.



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elvis

You are right, Catkin. Same darn thing. Ah well, GAO has no real power, so that's that.

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catkinZ8a

POLITICS

GARRETT EPPS


Obama Leaves the Constitution Weaker Than He Found It

Even for those like me who admire the 44th president, the constitutional record is disturbingly mixed.

Every four years, an American citizen puts a hand on a holy book and swears to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Anxiety is understandably high in the weeks before a new hand hits that Bible. But as we obsess about the intentions of the incoming president, it is worth asking ourselves how well the current incumbent has preserved our governing document.

History will likely ponder long before rendering a clear verdict. The best we can say now is that, even for those like me who admire Barack Obama, the constitutional record is disturbingly mixed. Obama leaves the Constitution weaker than at the beginning of his terms. It now will pass into the hands of a chief executive who appears to have no respect for its limits.

Let’s dispense first with the off-the-rack critique of this administration—that it has in some way engaged in “executive overreach,” pushing executive power to new, Constitution-straining heights.

  • In addition, the claim that “executive orders” are end-runs around Congress also doesn’t pass the laugh test. Every president since Washington has used them to implement laws passed by Congress—without them, bureaucrats can’t enforce new laws. (Some of the programs to which Obama’s critics most strenuously object—such as the so-called DACA/DAPA immigration initiative—didn’t flow from “executive orders” at all.)

    But no matter how they have been promulgated, Obama’s uses of executive power have had an intriguing common thread. Under Ronald Reagan and the two presidents Bush, the executive branch often tied itself to the mast of a strong executive, one with “inherent” powers over war, peace, and law enforcement that Congress could not limit in any way. (After Congress passed the sweeping 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, for example, Bush legal adviser John Yoo sent the president a memo advising that the Congress was out of line for passing it, because it suggested he needed authorization to attack any nation or group he chose at any time for any reason.)Obama has never formally subscribed to this strong-executive theory. On paper, at








https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/obama-leaves-the-constitution-weaker-than-he-found-it/512015/

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catkinZ8a

It’s a handy story, easy to tell, and opponents of the Administration are assiduous in repeating it. It is, however, mostly bosh. It puts powdered wigs and knee britches on mundane policy disputes and appalling legislative obstructionism. Most of the big court cases testing Obama’s powers have actually been statutory arguments, with no constitutional issue involved. They have been reported as constitutional clashes, but they were really run-of-the-mill legal disputes.

MORE STORIES

Compared with most presidents of the past half-century—and especially with his predecessor, George W. Bush—Barack Obama has in fact been quite reticent about asserting inherent “executive power” under the Constitution. Consider the use of “signing statements”—documents issued by a president when signing a bill, sometimes indicating that the executive branch will refuse to follow parts of the new law because it believes them unconstitutional. George W. Bush issued more than 160; Obama, in the same time period, 31.

In addition, the claim that “executive orders” are end-runs around Congress also doesn’t pass the laugh test. Every president since Washington has used them to implement laws passed by Congress—without them, bureaucrats can’t enforce new laws. (Some of the programs to which Obama’s critics most strenuously object—such as the so-called DACA/DAPA immigration initiative—didn’t flow from “executive orders” at all.)

But no matter how they have been promulgated, Obama’s uses of executive power have had an intriguing common thread. Under Ronald Reagan and the two presidents Bush, the executive branch often tied itself to the mast of a strong executive, one with “inherent” powers over war, peace, and law enforcement that Congress could not limit in any way. (After Congress passed the sweeping 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, for example, Bush legal adviser John Yoo sent the president a memo advising that the Congress was out of line for passing it, because it suggested he needed authorization to attack any nation or group he chose at any time for any reason.)

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catkinZ8a

Obama has never formally subscribed to this strong-executive theory. On paper, at least, he has insisted that he is working hard to fulfill the intent of Congress as expressed in statutes. This is a strategy I call “aggressive compliance”—it pushes the language of a statute as far as it can go in order to avoid a constitutional claim. In practical terms, the result is often the same—the executive gets its way––but there’s no corresponding assertion that Congress has no power. If, by some bizarre series of events, Congress collected itself to change a statute, and managed to overcome a presidential veto of that change, then, Obama would say, of course he would change his actions.

It’s better than simply proclaiming a president beyond the law. But it sometimes skates close to the edge of legality. Consider the administration’s claim that it could, without Congressional authorization, commit U.S. naval and air forces during the 2011 intervention in Libya. The action seemed to violate the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which requires a president to notify Congress before introducing U.S. forces into “hostilities,” and seek permission if that intervention lasts more than 60 days. Many presidents have claimed that the Resolution was an unconstitutional limit on their power. Obama instead issued a careful opinion admitting that the Resolution was valid—but suggesting that more than 100 cruise missile strikes, and dozens of air missions, were not, somehow, “hostilities.” It was too clever by half, and it is a lasting blot on Obama’s constitutional copybook.

Even worse, however, is the continued conduct of open hostilities in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State despite the refusal of Congress to approve the military campaign. No one questions that the Constitution applies here; but because the two branches are unable to agree on the scope of American intervention, this most crucial of constitutional guarantees—the power of Congress to authorize military action—has gone by the board. This is not entirely the president’s fault—the administration and its allies have repeatedly begged Congress to at least hold hearings on an authorization bill. As is often the case in history, legislators would prefer to stay out of the arena so that they can later claim credit for victory but disclaim any role in disaster.

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catkinZ8a

And just to underline how obsolete Congressional authorization has become, consider that the most searing foreign-policy attacks on Obama arise from the one occasion on which he announced he would not intervene abroad without Congressional authorization—his 2013 decision not to launch airstrikes against Syria without first going to Congress. Whether he was using constitutional caution as an excuse or not, the Constitution clearly required authorization, while the political class of both parties has treated Obama’s caution as contemptible.

As a civil-libertarian, Obama had his limits. Obama hands over to the Trump administration a National Security Agency that is pursuing a robust a program of domestic and foreign surveillance, under the relatively thin constraints provided by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments of 2008. The Obama administration has been stunningly aggressive in its incursions on news-gathering by reporters, prosecuting leakers under the Espionage Act and demanding the phone records of 20 Associated Press reporters as part of a leak investigation. These were far beyond the previous norms––and are now part of the background practices inherited by the Trump Administration.

The drone warfare program that has grown up under this administration is also only nominally constrained by law, with prerogative for the air assassination of Americans abroad at the disposal of the new executive. The administration’s decision not to pursue any serious criminal investigation of torture and illegal detention under Bush means that the formal roadblocks to Trump’s resumption of these crimes (which he has promised) will be few. So well protected was the national-security establishment under Obama that its head, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, was forced to admit lying to Congress under oath about the NSA “metadata” program––and suffered no adverse consequences as a result.

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catkinZ8a

The above is a sobering record for an administration that liked to pose as a friend of the Constitution and of civil liberties. History’s judgment may be tempered by the evidence that Obama wanted to do better. He struggled for eight years, for example, to close the extraterritorial prison camp at Guantanamo. He did seek authorization for the IS campaign. He tried hard to reach across the partisan aisle to forge legislation.

In those efforts, he was largely stymied by an opposition whose commitment to genuine constitutionalism was, not to put too fine a point on it, almost nil. The new far-right Republican Party that emerged from the 2010 elections took, and takes, no responsibility for constitutional norms, whether it was honoring the obligations of the national debt or considering presidential nominees to judgeships and executive agencies.

But the job of a president is to overcome obstacles, build political support, and mobilize public opinion. Obama’s record is that of a smart, determined, but politically weak president. Regardless of fault, there’s little doubt that he leaves the Constitution weaker than he found it.

IMPEACH 44!

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Stan Areted

Obama was the Savior.

That's why there were no calls for impeachment of Obama.

Trump won.

THAT is his "crime" and ONLY "crime"--non crime.

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nancy_in_venice_ca Sunset 24 z10

No one called for his impeachment. Why is that? Oh, right, he is a Democrat.

Republicans controlled the House of Representatives beginning in January 2015.

Articles of impeachment originate in the House of Representatives.

If President Obama was not impeached, the blame falls squarely on the Republican leadership of the House -- John Boehner and then Paul Ryan.

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Ann

Another time the GAO says Obama violated the law. Bottom line, it's not unusual and has happened to many a president from both parties. And, as Elvis pointed out, the GAO has no real power, so that's that.


https://morningconsult.com/2016/09/29/gao-sides-gop-saying-hhs-owes-treasury-aca-deposit/

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Ziemia(6a)

So, is it Ok for Presidents to do this in the eyes of Trump supporters? Presumably yes.

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Ann

"If President Obama was not impeached, the blame falls squarely on the Republican leadership of the House -- John Boehner and then Paul Ryan."

Well, we'll see how this "impeachment" goes. It might be that credit goes to Boehner and Ryan for having the good sense to not use impeachment except when it is truly warranted, instead of using it as a political ploy (making a joke of it).

Yesterday, Dana Perino was comparing Trump's phone call to something that fell in the category of an event that might warrant HR putting a note in an employee file for a regular person - not a firing, demotion, or any forced time off. Just the equivalent worthiness of a note in an HR file.


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Ann

"So, is it Ok for Presidents to do this in the eyes of Trump supporters? Presumably yes."

Do what Ziemia? That's the thing. There are great things each president does, lots of average things, and some not so great. But impeachment was meant for extreme circumstances - not for the normal goings on in every presidential term.

Impeacment wasn't meant to be for a highly disgruntled party that lost an election, announced a plan to impeach for some TBD event of which they had no idea about, then began to spend years looking for some needle in a haystack, and finally settled on a big nothing they tried (and failed) to dramatize into a something - all because the next election is rapidly approaching and they were running out of time to find their needle in that haystack and fear they don't have a candidate who will beat Trump in an election. This plan was doomed to fail before it even began.

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nancy_in_venice_ca Sunset 24 z10

Perino was comparing Trump's phone call to something that fell in the category of an event that might warrant HR putting a note in an employee file for a regular person

Disingenuous at best, but probably willful ignorance. There's a lot of context -- activities of Giuliani, Pompeo, Parnas, Fruman, Nunes, Mulvaney, etc -- that must be excised before Perino's oh-gosh-oh-golly-gee-whiz explanation can even be considered without a gigantic belly laugh.

I misspoke; Perino's proposed scenario is simply ludicrous.


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patriciae_gw(07)

Presidents often do things that are not strictly legal and it is up to the congress and possibly the courts to do something about it when they do though most of the time it is simply expedience. In Trumps case it is not what he did it is the reason he did it. You cant get around the fact that he did it to damage a political opponent. He solicited help from a foreign country to damage a political opponent and used our tax dollars to leverage his desired outcome. I would welcome any conservative here to tell me you will be perfectly happy to see a Democratic president do the same thing. I challenge you to tell me that.

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lurker111

No one called for his impeachment. Why is that? Oh, right, he is a Democrat.

Republicans controlled the House of Representatives beginning in January 2015.

Saner minds prevailed. This group of nuthouse crats are on a rampage.

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catkinZ8a

No one's ever heard of the Uniparty in DC?

Hilarious.

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patriciae_gw(07)

I am waiting. Are you going to be hunky dory with a Democratic president using tax payer money to leverage a foreign country to create a smear for you of a political opponent?

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bfox254

There's an obvious big difference. Obama didn't do it for personal gain. Trump did and that's why he's impeached. Trump abused his power to attempt to smear a political rival. It's not the withholding of aid by itself that's cause for impeachment, it's the motive behind the action. I don't think his supporters misunderstand this difference, they just choose to ignore it

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ubro(2a)

Twisting like a pretzel to justify ignoring Trump's illegal actions , still can't let Obama go eh?

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Sue 430

I did not agree with many things that Obama did, although I voted for him. I didn't hesitate to say so at the time, unlike Trump supporters who somehow can't find their way to criticizing ANYTHING that he does. And the difference, as bfox mentioned above was that Obama did not do it for his personal gain. Does it make it good that he did? No, of course not. But totally different than Trump doing it in an attempt to stay in power.

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Ziemia(6a)

IRL - I know of no one who doesn't mention his failings when he comes up in conversation. (And the list of positives is impressive.) And these generally all voted for Hillary. (Many of us feel you can't know someone's greatness if you don't know their failings.)

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Nana H

Trump was not impeached for breaking this law.

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Ziemia(6a)

No one called for his impeachment. Why is that? Oh, right, he is a Democrat.

Explains Clinton how?

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Embothrium(Sunset Climate Zone 5, USDA Hardiness Zone 8)

Thread subtitle: "But Obama!"

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