SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — A Northwest Louisiana congressman is making what some describe as a controversial conclusion about a report the Democrats will be relying on heavily in the weeks ahead.
Rep. Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District, claims the president never broke the law related to the articles of impeachment he faces in the U.S. Senate trial now underway.
That’s a conclusion that’s completely opposite the one drawn by the nonpartisan government watchdog agency known as the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Johnson made his remarks Tuesday during a news conference in Bossier City at which he announced that he’s joining the Trump impeachment legal team.
The lawmaker contends that this is like no previous impeachment proceeding, including those of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and President Bill Clinton in 1998 and the threat of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in 1974.
“In each of those cases, they had very specific crimes that were supported by mountains of evidence that the crimes were actually committed. That just simply doesn’t exist here,” Johnson said.
On the other hand, the GAO has concluded that the Trump administration violated the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which was inspired by actions taken by then-President Nixon.
The GAO found that Trump’s Office of Management and Budget violated federal law last summer by withholding approximately $214 million appropriated to the U.S. Defense Department for security asssistance to Ukraine.
“The GAO report is worth the paper it’s printed on and not much more,” Johnson responded.
The Louisiana congressman is not the first Republican to oppose the GAO’s conclusion. But his opposition stands out largely because of his role on Trump’s legal team as a constitutional law expert.
Johnson explained his stance by saying: “They (the GAO) don’t determine what a crime is or what an impeachable offense is. If that was the standard, then many of our modern presidents would have been removed from office and impeached.”
But the GAO’s ruling is so important to the Democrats’ case in the Senate trial that Rep. Adam Schiff, of California, cited it directly during his opening arguments Wednesday on the Senate floor.
Yet Johnson concluded that it’s just not the GAO’s place to decide.
“So that’s really of no import to the Senate. The Senate is the one under our Constitution that has the responsibility to determine whether an impeachable offense has been committed.”
In fact, Johnson predicted, Trump’s acquittal will be bipartisan once all the evidence is presented.
KSLA News 12 reached out to the GAO in Washington D.C., throughout the day Wednesday. Charles Young, the agency’s managing director of public affairs, responded by email late that afternoon. He wrote that the GAO is not going beyond the statement the agency released Thursday in which Thomas H. Armstrong, the GAO’s general counsel, states that the Trump administration violated the Impoundment Control Act.