WASHINGTON– House Democrats say evidence of President Donald Trump’s misconduct and obstruction of Congress is “overwhelming,” charging that Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine compromised national security in a new report released Tuesday that will form the backbone of the impeachment proceedings against the President.
The 300-page report from the House Intelligence Committee sets the stage for the impeachment of a US president for just the third time in history. The report stops short of outright recommending impeachment, with House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, and the other committee chairs leading the inquiry said that was a decision Congress ultimately has to make.
But the report makes clear that’s where Democrats are heading.
“It will be up to the Congress to determine whether these acts rise to the level of an impeachable offense, whether the President shall be held to account, and whether we as a nation are committed to the rule of law — or, instead, whether a president who uses the power of his office to coerce foreign interference in a U.S. election is something that Americans must simply ‘get over,'” Schiff, Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel of New York and Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney of New York said in a joint statement.
The report release kicks off what’s poised to be a frenzied month in the House, with Democrats on track to potentially vote on impeaching Trump by Christmas. The House Intelligence Committee will vote to approve the report Tuesday evening, and will then send it to the Judiciary Committee, which plans to hold hearings and would draft articles of impeachment against Trump.
The report is broken down into two sections, one on Ukraine and the other on obstruction of Congress — both of which are expected to be separate articles of impeachment.
Democrats found that the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden — was the “dramatic crescendo” of a months-long campaign driven by the President in Ukraine that involved a number of senior officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
“The President engaged in this course of conduct for the benefit of his own presidential reelection, to harm the election prospects of a political rival, and to influence our nation’s upcoming presidential election to his advantage,” the report says. “In doing so, the President placed his own personal and 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.”
Democrats charged that the White House’s obstruction of their impeachment investigation was an “unprecedented campaign,” detailing the numerous subpoenas that were defied over the two-month investigation.
“Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a stronger or more complete case of obstruction than that demonstrated by the President since the inquiry began,” the report says.
The White House and congressional Republicans have rejected the Democratic allegations. Congressional Republicans on Monday released their report ahead of the Democrats, a document that fully defended the President’s actions on Ukraine and accused Democrats of rushing to impeach the President without any evidence that Trump did anything wrong.
“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,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham 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.”
The Democratic report is based largely on the 17 witness interviews that were conducted over the past several months, including 12 at two weeks of public hearings, with testimony that detailed a lengthy effort spearheaded by the President’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to oust the US ambassador to Ukraine and then push Kiev to announce investigations into the President’s political rivals.
The report’s findings on both Ukraine and obstruction of Congress are expected to be included in the articles of impeachment.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Monday that the report “outlines in considerable detail a scheme that began actually well before the recall of Ambassador (Marie) Yovanovitch, and was designed to further two political objectives of the President, which is an investigation into Joe Biden and an investigation into this debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine that interfered in the last election, not Russia — notwithstanding all of our intelligence agencies concluding it was Russia, notwithstanding the fact that it’s actually Putin’s narrative that Ukraine did it, not us.”
Schiff added: “The President believed obviously this would help his reelection campaign, and he was willing to use the full force of his office to leverage Ukraine to do these sham investigations.”
The vote on the Intelligence Committee report signals a shift in the impeachment process from that committee to the Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary panel, chaired by Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, is holding its first impeachment hearing on Wednesday with legal experts.