Right after Mark Sandy, an official at the Office of Management and Budget, learned that President Trump froze US aid to Ukraine, he told his boss that the move might have violated a federal law about congressional appropriations and said OMB lawyers should review the matter.
Sandy learned about the holdup on July 19, after returning from a vacation. He was told about it by his boss, Michael Duffey, a Trump political appointee at OMB.
“So, on that day, I emphasized that that would noise a number of questions that we would need to address,” Sandy said. “And so I advised that we would want to consult with our Office of the General Counsel on those questions first.”
Sandy, who is not an attorney, said he raised the legal concerns because “these moneys are what we call one-year funds, which means that their period of availability was expiring on September 30th, and consistent with a layman’s understanding of the Impoundment Control Act, we need to ensure that agencies are able to obligate funds before they expire.”
The Impoundment Control Act, a federal law passed in the 1970s, prohibits a sitting US president from unilaterally withholding funds that were appropriated by Congress. Some liberal-minded scholars have opined that Trump broke the law when he froze $390 million in military aid for Ukraine because it was appropriated by lawmakers.
On July 30, political appointee Michael Duffey took over responsibility for the Ukraine money. (Up until that point, Sandy had been signing the documents about the freeze. After that, until the aid was lifted in September, Duffey signed the papers.)
Sandy learned about this change in a conversation with Duffey, who told him “that there was interest among the leadership in tracking the uses of moneys closely.” Duffey also said he “had an interest in being more involved in daily operations… he regarded this responsibility as a way for him to learn about more specific accounts within his area.”
Sandy raised concerns about this move — he said because it would take up so much of Duffey’s time, if he were to assume responsibility for these funds and others. He also said that it was not the most efficient way to learn about how OMB formally doles out federal funding.