WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump seriously misused the power of his office for personal political gain by seeking foreign intervention in the American election process and obstructed Congress by stonewalling efforts to investigate, a House report released Tuesday concluded in findings that form the basis for possible impeachment.
The 300-page report from Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee does not render a judgment on whether Trump’s actions stemming from a July 25 phone call with Ukraine rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors” warranting impeachment. That is for Congress to decide. But it details “significant misconduct” by the president that the House Judiciary Committee will begin to assess Wednesday.
“The evidence that we have found is really quite overwhelming that the president used the power of his office to secure political favors and abuse the trust American people put in him and jeopardize our security,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told The Associated Press.
“It was a difficult decision to go down this road, because it’s so consequential for the country,” he said. But “the president was the author of his own impeachment inquiry by repeatedly seeking foreign help in his election campaigns.”
Schiff added: “Americans need to understand that this president is putting his personal political interests above theirs. And that it’s endangering the country.”
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “Chairman Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump.” She said the report “reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.”
The president, at a NATO meeting in London, called the impeachment effort by rival Democrats “unpatriotic,” and said he wouldn’t be watching Wednesday’s hearing.
The “Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report” provides a detailed, stunning, account of a shadow diplomacy run by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, resulting in layers of allegations that can be distilled into specific acts, like bribery or obstruction, and the more amorphous allegation that Trump abused his power by putting his interests above the nation.
Based on two months of investigation sparked by a still-anonymous government whistleblower’s complaint, the report relies heavily on testimony from current and former U.S. officials who defied White House orders not to appear.
The inquiry found that Trump “solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection,” Schiff wrote in the report’s preface. In doing so, the president “sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security,” the report said. When Congress began investigating, it added, Trump obstructed the investigation like no other president in history.
Along with revelations from earlier testimony, the report included previously unreleased cell phone records raising fresh questions about Giuliani’s interactions with the top Republican on the intelligence panel, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, and the White House. Nunes declined to comment.
The House intelligence panel voted later Tuesday, in a party-line tally, to send the document to the Judiciary Committee.
Republicans defended the president in their own 123-page rebuttal claiming Trump never intended to pressure Ukraine when he asked for a “favor” — investigations of Democrats and Joe Biden. They say the military aid the White House was withholding was not being used as leverage, as Democrats claim — and besides, the $400 million was ultimately released, although only after a congressional outcry. Democrats, they argue, just want to undo the 2016 election.
For Republicans falling in line behind Trump, the inquiry is simply a “hoax.” Trump criticized the House for pushing forward with the proceedings while he was overseas, a breach of political decorum that traditionally leaves partisan differences at the water’s edge.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy called on Democrats to end the impeachment “nightmare.” He said, “They’re concerned if they do not impeach this president they cant beat him in an election.”
The report will lay the foundation for the Judiciary Committee to assess potential articles of impeachment, presenting a history-making test of political judgment with a case that is dividing Congress and the country.
In prefacing it, Schiff drew deeply from history, citing George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and other Founding Fathers, to explain grounds for impeachment “as a remedy of last resort.”
Democrats once hoped to sway Republicans to consider Trump’s removal, but they are now facing a ever-hardening partisan split over the swift-moving proceedings on impeaching the president.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces a critical moment of her leadership as she steers the process ahead after initially resisting the impeachment inquiry, warning it was too divisive for the country and required bipartisan support.
Possible grounds for impeachment are focused on whether Trump abused his office as he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open investigations into Trump’s political rivals. At the time, Trump was withholding $400 million in military aid, jeopardizing key support as Ukraine faces an aggressive Russia at its border.
The report also accuses Trump of becoming the “first and only” president in U.S. history to “openly and indiscriminately” defy House’s constitutional authority to conduct the impeachment proceedings by instructing officials not to comply with subpoenas for documents and testimony.
For Democrats marching into what is now a largely partisan process, the political challenge if they proceed is to craft the impeachment articles in a way that will draw the most support from their ranks and not expose Pelosi’s majority to messy divisions, especially as Republicans stand lockstep with the president.
While liberal Democrats are pushing the party to go further and incorporate the findings from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and other actions by Trump, more centrist and moderate Democrats prefer to stick with the Ukraine matter as a simpler narrative that Americans understand.
Trump’s campaign is spending robustly to run ads against front-line freshmen lawmakers, many from districts Trump won in 2016 but that flipped in 2018 to give Democrats the House majority. Pelosi will be protective of these lawmakers as the proceedings unfold.
Hearing from legal experts at Wednesday’s session, Democrats could begin drafting articles of impeachment against the president in a matter of days. The Judiciary Committee could vote next week and the full House Could vote by Christmas. Then it moves to the Senate for a trial in 2020.
The White House declined an invitation to participate Wednesday, with counsel Pat Cipollone denouncing the proceedings as a “baseless and highly partisan inquiry.”
Trump had previously suggested he might be willing to offer written testimony under certain conditions, though aides suggested they did not anticipate Democrats would ever agree to them.
Cipollone, who will brief Senate Republicans on Wednesday, left open the question of whether White House officials would participate in additional House hearings.
Republicans on the committee, led by Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, plan to use procedural moves to stall the process and portray the inquiry as unfair to the president.
House rules provide the president and his attorneys the right to cross-examine witnesses and review evidence before the committee, but little ability to bring forward witnesses of their own.
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Colleen Long, Eric Tucker and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
Takeaways from House report on Trump impeachment inquiry
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Intelligence Committee released a sweeping impeachment report Tuesday that asserts President Donald Trump misused his office to pressure Ukraine into opening investigations that he believed would help his reelection bid.
The report also makes the case that Trump obstructed Congress by stonewalling the committee’s requests for testimony and documents.
The House Intelligence Committee’s report is the culmination of a two-month investigation into Trump’s handling of Ukraine, including a July 25 phone call with the country’s new president and the decision to withhold military assistance from the country.
Here’s a look at some of the key points from the 300-page report:
The report states that lawmakers uncovered “significant misconduct” by the president toward Ukraine that broadly placed his own personal interests above those of the nation.
It asserts that the president “subverted” national security by withholding critical military aid to Ukraine, removing an anti-corruption “champion” from her post as ambassador, and by using “hand-picked” agents to pressure the new Ukrainian president to investigate Democrats, including Joe Biden and his son.
Trump conditioned White House meetings on the investigations, and asked Ukraine’s president to do him a favor during the July 25 conversation.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, called the push on Ukraine the “act of a president unbound,” with Trump “determined to use his vast official powers to secure his reelection.”
Republicans in a rebuttal to the report said Democrats have no evidence of impeachable offenses by Trump, only proof that he “holds a deepseated, genuine, and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine.”
NO OTHER PRESIDENT
The Democratic report describes a concerted and unprecedented effort by Trump and his lawyers to obstruct the House investigation, and to encourage others to do so as well.
The White House told witnesses not to testify and executive branch agencies not to provide any records. Deadlines were missed, subpoenas ignored and combative tweets about “a COUP” greeted Congress in place of conciliatory niceties.
The orders were followed to varying degrees. Not a single document was produced by the White House or government agencies despite 71 demands or requests for documents, the report says. And many administration officials who refused to testify cited the White House directives, though several “courageous individuals” came forward to “tell the truth,” according to the report.
Pointedly, the report asserts, Trump’s obstruction went far beyond anything attempted by President Richard Nixon, who agreed to let his staff testify voluntarily in the Watergate investigation, or President Bill Clinton, who provided written responses to 81 interrogatories.
U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, makes a surprise appearance in the report thanks to call records the Democrats obtained from AT&T and Verizon.
Those records show Nunes had a series of calls with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as well as with Giuliani’s now-indicted associate Lev Parnas. One conversation with Parnas on April 12 lasted eight minutes, according to logs contained in the report.
Giuliani also had multiple connections with a National Security Council official who formerly served on Nunes’ staff. The connection between some of the players in the investigation prompted questions about whether Nunes — a fervent Trump supporter who lambasted the hearings as a circus sideshow — should have recused himself.
Schiff, also of California, said he was going to reserve comment Tuesday. He said their investigation is focused on the president’s conduct. “The allegations are concerning,” he said, but it may be up to others to investigate. A spokesman for Nunes did not respond to a request for comment.
THE INVESTIGATION CONTINUES
As the Intelligence Committee hands over the report to Judiciary, Schiff made clear that his panel’s work is far from finished. He said in a preface to the report that “there remain unanswered questions, and our investigation must continue.”
Democrats have said they are moving quickly because they believe the evidence is overwhelming and they are concerned about further misconduct by Trump. But they have been under some pressure from the left and from some liberal lawmakers to keep digging before a final impeachment vote.
Schiff said Tuesday that his panel is still looking into some related matters, including whether an effort to influence Ukraine started earlier than first understood. He has said the committee may still call witnesses and could send addendums to the report.
THE THREE AMIGOS (AND RUDY)
The report dedicates a section to a trio of government officials who called themselves the “three amigos:” Energy Secretary Rick Perry, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and former special envoy Kurt Volker. The men, along with Giuliani, were put in charge of Ukraine policy by Trump.
But that didn’t mean the president listened to their assessment of the country. In May, the three told Trump that the new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, was “committed to doing the right things,” including fighting corruption. Trump reacted negatively, according to the report.
He said the country was “a terrible place, all corrupt, terrible people.” His words echoed Giuliani’s, and the amigos “saw the writing on the wall,” according to Sondland’s testimony, realizing they needed to work with Giuliani on Ukraine or nothing would happen.
Volker and Sondland both testified publicly and said they were dismayed they had to work with Trump’s personal attorney on diplomacy. But that was the way it was, they argued, so they followed orders.
Associated Press Writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report