House Intelligence Committee says Trump abused power

Democrats on House Intelligence Committee release report on impeachment inquiry.

Ben Ariel,

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released a report outlining their weeks of evidence-gathering as part of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

The 300-page report does not recommend specific articles of impeachment — a task under the charge of the Judiciary Committee — but it paints a damning portrait of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and hints strongly that those actions merit his removal from office.

Most of the details contained in the report were previously known, following weeks of interviews with more than a dozen administration officials with a window into Trump’s dealings with Kyiv, noted The Hill.

The sweeping summary does, however, uncover new elements surrounding the affair, including new details about extensive phone communications between some of the key players in the saga, including Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer; Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born business associate of Giuliani’s; and John Solomon, a conservative columnist who published a series of articles pushing debunked theories about US-Ukraine relations.

“The evidence is clear that President Trump used the power of his office to pressure 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,” three House Democrat chairs said in a statement quoted by The Hill.

“These investigations were designed to benefit his 2020 presidential reelection campaign."

The report, which the Intelligence panel is poised to transmit to the Judiciary Committee, lays out details that Democrats hope will boost their case that Trump sought to leverage his office for personal political gain at the expense of national security. That argument rests primarily on the allegation that Trump used the most powerful office in the world to press Ukrainian leaders to open investigations that would boost his reelection chances next year.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has described Trump’s pressure campaign as “bribery” — one of the Constitution’s few named impeachable offenses. And while the Intelligence Committee report did not adopt that term, it detailed that charge in everything but name.

“The President was withholding officials acts while soliciting something of value to his reelection campaign — an investigation into his political rival,” the report says.

Democrats allege that Trump sought to use the possibility of a White House meeting and nearly $400 million in U.S. aid as leverage to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly commit to opening two investigations: one into unfounded claims that it was Kyiv, not Moscow, that interfered in the US elections of 2016; the other into Biden, a leading presidential contender in 2020, whose son sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

The Democrats assert that the evidence they collected in recent weeks is "clear" that Trump "conditioned official acts on the public announcement of these investigations: a coveted White House visit and critical US military assistance Ukraine needed to fight its Russian adversary."

Committee Democrats also criticized the White House for its blanket refusal to cooperate in the impeachment inquiry. In an unsubtle historical comparison, they noted that obstruction of Congress was one of the articles of impeachment lodged against President Richard Nixon, who was forced to resign in 1974, and suggested Trump will face a similar charge.

The Democrats’ report featured interviews with 17 top diplomats and national security officials with insights into Trump’s handling of foreign policy in Kyiv. The Intelligence Committee, led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), will meet Tuesday evening to adopt the report.

Afterwards, the impeachment inquiry will shift to the Judiciary Committee, which set Wednesday as the date of its first hearing and which is charged with crunching the investigators’ findings to determine if Trump’s actions rise to a level of misconduct meriting impeachment.

On Sunday, the White House informed House Democrats that it will not participate in the Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing, with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone saying the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is a “baseless” and “partisan” exercise.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said recently that Trump is welcome to testify before the Intelligence Committee that is leading the impeachment inquiry against him.

The White House, which has criticized the House of Representative's impeachment inquiry, has made clear that Trump “wants to have a trial in the Senate because it’s clearly the only chamber where he can expect fairness and receive due process under the Constitution.”