Evidence of Trump misconduct ‘overwhelming’: House report

US House impeachment report accuses Trump using powers of office to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Democrats on Tuesday accused United States President Donald Trump of abusing power to win re-election in 2020, saying in a report that will form the basis of any formal impeachment charges that he solicited foreign interference, undermined national security, and ordered an unprecedented campaign to obstruct Congress.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which has spearheaded the impeachment probe, said Trump had used US military aid and the prospect of a White House visit to compel his Ukrainian counterpart to “do his political bidding”.

“President Trump’s scheme subverted US foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favor of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential reelection campaign,” the report said.

Democrats also accused Trump of an unprecedented effort to obstruct an impeachment inquiry that included categorical refusals to provide documents and testimony from his top advisers, unsuccessful attempts to block career government officials from testifying and the intimidation of witnesses.

“Donald Trump is the first President in the history of the United States to seek to completely obstruct an impeachment inquiry undertaken by the House of Representatives,” the report said.

“The evidence of the president’s misconduct is overwhelming, and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress. 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,” it added.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and accused Democrats of using the impeachment process to overturn the results of the 2016 presidential election. Opinion polls suggest Americans are bitterly divided over whether to impeach Trump.

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said Democrats, led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, had conducted a “one-sided sham process” that had failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by Trump.

“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,” Grisham said.

The House Intelligence Committee approved the report along party lines in a 13-9 vote, the panel said in a statement. It added that Republicans will have two days to submit “Minority Views” and then Schiff will transmit the report and it appendices to the House Judiciary Committee. 

The House Judiciary Committee is set to open its proceedings on Wednesday.

If the full House eventually votes to approve formal impeachment charges, a trial would be held in the Republican-led US Senate, where a two-thirds majority of those present would be required to convict Trump and remove him from office.

At issue is whether Trump misused the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the 2020 election.

Politicians and the public have heard testimony from current and former officials that military aid was withheld from Ukraine and that a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was conditioned on Kyiv conducting the probe, as well as one into a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US election.

Phone records

Much of the report drew on the public testimony of current and former government officials and suggested that wrongdoing within the executive branch extended beyond Trump.

The report said many of Trump’s “closest subordinates and advisors”, including White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, had knowledge of, and in some cases facilitated and furthered Trump’s efforts and withheld information.

It also cited dozens of previously unreported phone records that laid out a pattern of contact between Trump’s personal lawyer – Rudy Giuliani, Giuliani’s associates, the House Intelligence Committee’s top Republican – Devin Nunes, and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

The phone records were obtained from AT&T, the report said, showing the telecoms giant complied with the congressional inquiry. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Schiff, in his news conference, said the phone records showed there was considerable coordination among the parties, including the White House, and there might be evidence that members of Congress were complicit in illegal activity.

Possible articles of impeachment

House Democrats appeared to be contemplating at least two possible articles of impeachment tied to the Ukraine scandal: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Republicans, in an advance rebuttal report released on Monday, said Democrats had not established that Trump had committed an impeachable offence.

The president and other administration officials have criticised the timing of this week’s impeachment proceedings, taking place as Trump attends the summit overseas, although Democratic then-President Bill Clinton also faced impeachment during a 1998 trip to Israel.

In London, Trump complained Democrats had conducted unfair “witch hunt” hearings in which witnesses who his administration wanted to testify were not called. Senior administration officials have declined to testify in the proceedings.

“We want Biden. We want the son – where’s Hunter? We want the son,” Trump said during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

Trump and other Republicans have suggested that Biden and his son, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company for several years, should be investigated for corruption. There is no evidence that either of the Bidens engaged in wrongdoing.

Trump also repeated his defence that his calls with Zelenskyy, including one on July 25 in which he pushed for the probe of the Bidens, were “perfect” and that the impeachment inquiry was “a hoax”.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies