A federal watchdog, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Trump administration violated the law.
In Trump’s first fiscal budget after he became president, delivered to Congress in May, there were severe cuts in Department of Energy activities designed to solve future problems – including an innovative program that was developing advanced energy solutions.
Trump’s budget called for the entire program to be killed by 2019.
While Trump’s 2018 budget had yet to be passed, the Trump administration went ahead and cut off the remaining $91 million already allocated under the existing 2017 budget, reasoning that since they intended to kill the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, they might as well kill it now.
That did not sit well with the Congress members who had allocated the funds for advanced energy research.
So Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) requested that the GAO do an investigation.
The GAO undertook an audit, and in October the Department of Energy admitted they withheld more than $91 million that had been authorized, according to a GAO report issued this week, “in anticipation of congressional enactment of the legislative proposals in the budget request.”
The GAO investigators then concluded that withholding the funds violated the Impoundment Control Act.
In November, the Acting General Counsel of the Energy Department responded by saying that they had now allocated the $91 million.
The DOE explained that the money was used for “salaries and benefits of the federal staff; travel; support services contract to provide technical assistance and project management assistance; and other related expenses.”
In other words, it didn’t actually go to any innovative energy projects, but was dumped into the agency’s general fund and used to pay salaries and so forth.
The GAO then determined that while it wasn’t for programs, what the DOE did use it for was a legal purpose.
Rep. Johnson was notified and said in a statement ” I hopethe administration now understands that federal agencies must provide lawfully directed appropriations to the programs to which they are dedicated.”
“It cannot attempt to shut down an agency or starve a program it doesn’t like by withholding funds,” added Johnson.
Since the funds had been allocated, the GAO decided it did not need to file an official report with Congress or pursue any penalty, and that ended the matter.
So the Trump administration, caught with its hand in the cookie jar, just pulled it out and walked away scot-free.
The only losers are the American public who do not get the benefit of the innovative energy programs it might have generated; while Trump and his gang walk away.