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House Democratic impeachment managers walk to the Senate chamber for impeachment proceedings. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A Government Accountability Office report accusing President Trump of violating the law is taking on heightened importance at the start of his impeachment trial.

Why it matters: The key argument Trump's legal team plans to make is that the articles of impeachment are deficient on their face because, unlike previous impeachment attempts, they don’t allege that Trump broke the law.

  • But Democrats plan to highlight how the report from the nonpartisan government agency frequently referred to as the "congressional watchdog“ clearly finds that the Trump administration violated the law.
  • “This is a big part of our case,” a Democratic leadership aide told Axios. “It shows the extent to the president went to advance his scheme; he went so far to break the law. It's an important piece of evidence and only adds to the mountain and body of evidence that we already have."

What to watch: Whether new evidence uncovered by the House will be blocked from the Senate trial. The organizing resolution laying out the terms for the impeachment trial, released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last night, left open the chance that the Senate could decline to review such evidence.

What we're hearing: Sources working with the president’s legal team told reporters Monday that the impeachment of Trump is illegitimate and historically aberrant because it doesn’t accuse Trump of committing a crime.

  • One said: "We’re going to trial on a specific set of charges, spelled out in the charging document. The charging document doesn’t include anything about that GAO report. So in our view that’s not properly part of the accusation that‘s been brought to the Senate.”

Meanwhile, a Democratic aide working on impeachment said: "The president was so eager and so determined to turn the screws and ratchet up the pressure on Ukraine to do his political dirty work, that he was willing to break the law by withholding much needed security assistance from Ukraine.

  • “That’s the reason why they don't want that document” to be considered, the aide said.

The backdrop: The GAO found that the White House Office of Management and Budget violated the law when it withheld military aid to Ukraine.

  • The agency's report, which dropped just hours the Senate impeachment trial began last Thursday, determined that the OMB violated the 1974 Impoundment Control Act, which mandates that the White House and its agencies release funds appropriated by Congress.

Yes, but: The GAO's only tool to hold violators of the ICA accountable is to sue the administration to distribute the funds. OMB already released the aid to Ukraine in September.

Go deeper

Updated 57 mins ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.

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