Democrats presented a forceful case for impeaching and removing President Donald Trump from office Tuesday in a report detailing “overwhelming evidence” of misconduct in office and obstruction by the US leader.
Immediately dismissed by the White House as the product of a “one-sided sham process,” the House Intelligence Committee report accused Trump of subverting national security as he pressured Ukraine for dirt on a Democratic election rival.
The 300-page report, meant to serve as the basis for articles of impeachment, also mapped out in detail what it called an unparalleled effort of obstruction, including witness intimidation, to stifle the investigation into Trump’s Ukraine scheme.
“The president placed his personal political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the US presidential election process, and endangered US national security,” said the final report on the Intelligence Committee’s investigation.
“President Trump and his senior officials may see nothing wrong with using the power of the office of the president to pressure a foreign country to help the president’s reelection campaign,” it said.
“However, the Founding Fathers prescribed a remedy for a chief executive who places his personal interests above those of the country: impeachment.”
– ‘The president’s dirty work’ –
The report, the product of a rapid-fire probe sparked by a whistleblower’s complaint in August, mapped out a months-long scheme by Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and senior diplomats to pressure Ukraine’s president into investigating Joe Biden, the current favorite to win the Democratic White House nomination in 2020.
Trump also pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate a “conspiracy theory” that it was Ukraine, and not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 US election, to benefit the Democrats.
In both cases, the report said, Trump conditioned nearly $400 million in US military aid and a high-profile summit with Zelensky on Kiev opening the investigations.
Democrat Adam Schiff, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, said the White House demands left Ukraine, under constant threat from Russia-backed rebels, deeply vulnerable as Trump sought help for his 2020 reelection.
“This report chronicles a scheme by the president of the United States to coerce an ally, Ukraine, that is at war with an adversary, Russia, into doing the president’s dirty work,” he told reporters.
– ‘Ramblings of a basement blogger’ –
Secondly, the report said, Trump actively sought to obstruct the congressional probe, refusing to provide documents to investigators, preventing witnesses from appearing, and threatening some of those who did appear.
“Donald Trump is the first president in the history of the United States to seek to completely obstruct an impeachment inquiry undertaken by the House of Representatives,” it said.
“If left unanswered, President Trump’s ongoing effort to thwart Congress’ impeachment power risks doing grave harm to the institution of Congress, the balance of power between our branches of government, and the Constitutional order that the President and every Member of Congress have sworn to protect and defend.”
In London for a NATO summit, Trump again accused the Democrats of playing a political game.
“The impeachment is a hoax. It’s turned out to be a hoax. It’s done for purely political gain.”
His spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham doubled down in dismissing both the report and Schiff’s investigation.
“At the end of a one-sided sham process, Chairman Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump,” she said in a statement.
The report “reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.”
– Impeachment before Christmas? –
The report is expected to form the basis for the House Judiciary Committee to draw up formal charges, or articles of impeachment, in coming weeks.
If, as expected, the articles are passed by the Democratic-led House, the case will go to the Republican-controlled Senate for trial in January.
The Judiciary panel, which begins meeting on Wednesday, has set no formal timeframe.
But Democrats have aimed to hold a full House vote on articles of impeachment before the body goes on break for Christmas, December 25.
Schiff said that while the Judiciary Committee meets, his panel could continue investigating other angles of the Ukraine scheme, including whether Trump actually began much earlier, pressuring Zelensky’s predecessor Petro Poroshenko for the investigations, and whether some members of Congress were involved.
But he stressed the need to move quickly, accusing Trump of seeking election help not only from Ukraine but Russia and China.
“There is I think grave risk to the country with waiting until we have every last fact when we already know enough about the president’s misconduct to make a responsible judgement,” Schiff said.
Trump announces Rudy Giuliani ‘wants to go before Congress’ and testify about his Ukraine dealings
President Donald Trump on Saturday said that his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, wanted to testify before Congress.
Speaking to reporters as he departed for a Republican fundraiser in Florida, Trump praised the former New York City mayor.
"Rudy, as you know, has been one of the great crime fighters of the last 50 years," Trump said of his lawyer, who is reportedly under federal investigation for breaking the law.
"And, he did get back from Europe just recently and I know -- he has not told me what he found, but I think he wants to go before Congress and say, and also to the attorney general and the Department of Justice," Trump said.
GOP governors are refusing to do Trump’s bidding and ducking him on the campaign trail: report
On Saturday, Maggie Haberman of The New York Times profiled how President Donald Trump is having less luck whipping Republican governors into line than Republican senators, including governors who arguably owe their election to his support.
"In Florida, Mr. Trump’s aides helped save the flailing candidacy of Ron DeSantis in the 2018 Republican primary, and then the general election," wrote Haberman. "Also last year, in Georgia, Mr. Trump helped pull Brian Kemp over the finish line in both the primary and the general election. In both cases, Mr. Trump’s advisers implored him to stay out of the primaries, and he agreed to — only to surprise his aides by jumping in to support Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Kemp."
Courts have avoided refereeing between Congress and the president — Trump may change all that
President Donald Trump’s refusal to hand over records to Congress and allow executive branch employees to provide information and testimony to Congress during the impeachment battle is the strongest test yet of legal principles that over the past 200 years have not yet been fully defined by U.S. courts.
It’s not the first test: Struggles over power among the political branches predate our Constitution. The framers chose not to, and probably could not, fully resolve them.