The Government Accountability Office says Trump's team broke the law when they diverted funds to clean up piles of waste that accrued during the shutdown.
A legal opinion released Thursday from the Government Accountability Office said the Trump administration broke the law by authorizing funds to clean up piles of feces and other messes caused by his shutdown of the federal government in early 2019.
Trump shut down the federal government in January after Democrats opposed his attempts to spend millions on his border wall. As a result, there were no workers available to provide sanitation services at national parks.
"At national parks across the country, human excrement is piling up, bathrooms have become unbreathable heaps of bodily fluids, and park officials are noticing visitors relieving themselves in places where they should not be," the Daily Beast reported at the time.
Faced with national embarrassment and public outcry, the Trump team tapped money from entrance fees to facilitate cleanup. But this broke the law.
"GAO said the Interior Department moved money between accounts without authorization from Congress, in violation of federal law. The agency must report the violation to Congress, identify the officials responsible for it and explain steps it will take to prevent similar violations," Politico reported.
The Interior Department refused to cooperate with GAO's investigation of the cleanup scandal.
"We issue our opinion in this matter notwithstanding Interior’s failure to timely respond to our request for information," GAO told Politico.
"The Administration's decision to use these fees for basic day-to-day operations during President Trump’s shutdown is a clear violation of the law," said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) in a statement. McCollum is chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Interior Department.
"The Administration should now immediately report this violation and take corrective actions as required by law. This should put the administration on notice that their illegal actions will not be tolerated," she added.
"The American people pay these park fees to make improvements at our national parks – but instead the Trump administration illegally diverted them to limit the public relations fallout from its costly and unnecessary government shutdown," Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) said.
Trump eventually had to give in to the Democrats and reopen the government without his wall. The excrement piles he created through his stubbornness helped to turn public sentiment against him and fellow Republicans.
To deal with the piles of waste, Trump's team broke the law and gave his unpopular administration another black eye.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.