Oh, this is big.

Courtesy of NYT:

Hours before the Senate embarked on President Trump’s impeachment trial, a nonpartisan federal watchdog agency unexpectedly weighed in on an issue at the heart of the case: the president’s decision to withhold military assistance to Ukraine.

The agency, the Government Accountability Office, said the White House’s Office of Management and Budget violated the law when it withheld nearly $400 million this past summer for “a policy reason,” even though the funds had been allocated by Congress.

The decision to freeze the aid was directed by the president himself, and during the House impeachment inquiry, administration officials testified that they had raised concerns about its legality to no avail.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the accountability office wrote in an opinion released Thursday. “The withholding was not a programmatic delay.”

The accountability office is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. It conducts audits of federal spending, issues legal decisions on questions about federal contracts and budget matters and examines if federal agencies are complying with other legal requirements imposed on them by Congress.

The Trump folks will of course try to deflect the importance of this statement by the GAO and suggest they are simply part of the “deep state.”

But now that they have made his statemnt public it gives the House and Senate Democrats more to work with in obtaining documents and hearing from witnesses who were part of this illegal action.