By Steve Herman
Lawmakers are formally accusing U.S. President Donald Trump of misconduct and obstruction, based on a months-long effort by him “to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.”
Trump pressured “Ukraine into announcing investigations into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election. These investigations were designed to benefit his 2020 presidential reelection campaign,” according to a statement released by Adam Schiff, Carolyn Maloney and Eliot Engel, all Democrats, who respectively chair the intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees of the House.
“The evidence is also clear that President Trump conditioned official acts on the public announcement of these investigations: a coveted White House visit and critical U.S. military assistance Ukraine needed to fight its Russian adversary,” the statement adds.
Additionally, the Democratic lawmakers accuse the Republican president of engaging “in categorical and unprecedented obstruction in order to cover-up his misconduct.”
Schiff told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference that if Congress does not punish Trump for soliciting foreign interference in a U.S. election, “we are begging for more of the same.”
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham is rejecting the report’s conclusion.
“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. “This report reflects nothing more than their frustrations. Chairman Schiff’s report reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.”
Republican members of Congress say the Democrats uncovered no smoking guns that would merit Trump’s impeachment.
The Republican leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, told reporters that Schiff, who had vowed to send Trump “back to the golden throne he came from,” neglected protecting U.S. national security by focusing on impeachment.
The intelligence committee voted 13-9, along party lines, to adopt the report and send it to the House judiciary committee where there will be a partisan debate on whether to draft articles of impeachment against Trump.
As this plays out, the president is in London, meeting with other leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
“I think it’s a disgrace. I think the Democrats should be ashamed of themselves,” Trump said earlier Tuesday during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, when asked about the impeachment process.
“The Republicans have never been stronger, never been more unified,” claimed Trump, who warned of a bad precedent the legislative procedure would set.
“They have to be careful because when the shoe is on the other foot, and some day, hopefully in the very long distant future, you’ll have a Democrat president, you’ll have a Republican house and they’ll do the same thing because somebody picked an orange out of a refrigerator, and you don’t like it so let’s go and impeach them,” said Trump. “That’s not the way our country is supposed to be run.”
The president also personally attacked Schiff, who until now has spearheaded the Democrats’ inquiry of him, calling the intelligence committee chairman “a deranged human being.”
“I think he grew up with a complex for lots of reasons that are obvious. I think he’s a very sick man. And he lies,” added Trump.
If the president is impeached by the House — where Democrats have the votes to do that — there would then be a trial in the Senate on removing Trump from office.
The president on Tuesday indicated he is inclined to allow officials of his administration to testify there, something he has refused to consent to with the House process, which he has repeatedly referred to as a witch hunt.
“So, when it’s fair, and it’ll be fair in the Senate, I’d love to have [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo, I’d love to have Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick [Mulvaney], I’d love to have [former Energy Secretary] Rick Perry, and many other people testify,” said Trump. “But I don’t want them to testify when this is a total fix.”
Only two U.S. presidents have been formally impeached by Congress, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Both survived Senate trials to remove them from the White House.
Republicans firmly control the Senate and few in the chamber have given any hint they would break ranks and vote to convict Trump based on the current evidence.