The House intelligence committee released a sweeping impeachment report Tuesday outlining evidence of what it calls Donald Trump’s wrongdoing toward Ukraine, findings that will serve as the foundation for debate over whether the 45th U.S. president should be removed from office.
The 300-page report from Democrats on the intelligence committee makes the case that Trump misused the power of his office and, in the course of its investigation, obstructed Congress by stonewalling the proceedings. Based on two months of investigation, the report contains evidence and testimony from current and former U.S. officials.
“The impeachment inquiry has found that President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the U.S. government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his re-election,” the report said.
“The President engaged in this course of conduct for the benefit of his own presidential re-election, to harm the election prospects of a political rival, and to influence our nation’s upcoming presidential election to his advantage,” it said. 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 U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security.”
The House intelligence panel will vote later Tuesday, in what is expected to be a party-line tally, to send the document to the judiciary committee ahead of a landmark impeachment hearing Wednesday.
“It will be up to the Congress to determine whether these acts rise to the level of an impeachable offence,” Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the intelligence committee, said in a joint statement with the chairs of the oversight and foreign affairs committees who drafted the report.
“With the release of our report, the American people can review for themselves the evidence detailing President Trump’s betrayal of the public trust.”
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.”
Ahead of the release, Republicans defended the president in a rebuttal claiming Trump never intended to pressure Ukraine when he asked for a “favour” — investigations of Democrats and Joe Biden. The Republicans say the military aid the White House was withholding was not being used as leverage, as Democrats claim, and that the $400 million US was ultimately released, although only after a congressional outcry.
Trump at the opening of a NATO leaders’ meeting in London on Tuesday criticized the impeachment push as “unpatriotic” and “a bad thing for our country.”
The findings in the Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report draw deeply from history, citing Alexander Hamilton and other Founding Fathers, to explain grounds for impeachment.
“Rather than a mechanism to overturn an election, impeachment was explicitly contemplated as a remedy of last resort for a president who fails to faithfully execute his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” the report said.
The report will lay the foundation for the House judiciary committee to assess potential articles of impeachment starting Wednesday, presenting a history-making test of political judgment with a case that is dividing Congress and the country.
Trump said he will not watch the judiciary panel’s hearing, saying it’s “all nonsense, they’re just wasting their time.”
Republicans made early rebuttal
Democrats once hoped to sway Republicans to consider Trump’s removal, but they are now facing the prospect of an ever-hardening partisan split over the swift-moving proceedings on impeaching the president.
The findings are expected to forcefully make the Democrats’ case that Trump engaged in what Schiff, a Democrat from California, calls impeachable “wrongdoing and misconduct” in pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden and the Democrats while withholding military aid to the ally.
For Republicans who offered an early rebuttal ahead of the report’s public release, the proceedings are simply a “hoax,” with Trump insisting he did nothing wrong and his Republican allies are in line behind him. Trump tweeted his daily complaints about it all on Monday and then added a suggestive, if impractical, question: “Can we go to Supreme Court to stop?”
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.
He predicted Republicans would actually benefit from the impeachment effort against him.
For the Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces a critical moment of her leadership as she steers the process ahead after resisting the impeachment inquiry through the summer, warning at the time that 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 Zelensky in a July 25 phone call to open investigations into Trump’s political rivals. At the time, Trump was withholding $400 million US in military aid, jeopardizing key support as Ukraine faced an aggressive Russia at its border.
The next step comes when the judiciary committee opens its own hearing with legal experts to assess the findings and consider potential articles of impeachment ahead of a possible vote by the full House by Christmas. That would presumably send it to the Senate for a trial in January.