Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday unveiled the much-awaited findings of their weeks-long impeachment investigation, laying out in blow-by-blow detail the basis for their allegations that President Trump abused the power of his office.
The 300-page report does not recommend specific articles of impeachment — leaving those decisions to the Judiciary Committee — but it paints a damning portrait of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and all but asserts that those actions warrant his removal from office.
Most of the narrative outlined in the report was previously known, revealed during weeks of interviews with more than a dozen administration officials with a window into Trump’s dealings with Kyiv.
But the sweeping summary also uncovers some tantalizing new details surrounding the Ukrainian affair, including extensive phone communications between some of the key players in the saga.
Most dramatically, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) released the call records of his own ranking member, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who emerged through the process as one of the president’s closest allies. Schiff, who has had a frosty relationship with Nunes since the start of a separate investigation into Russian meddling in U.S. elections, said during a press conference that it’s “deeply concerning” if members of Congress may have also been “complicit” in digging up dirt on the president’s political rival.
The call records, obtained under subpoena from AT&T, also included the time and duration (but not the content) of calls placed between Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer; Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born business associate of Giuliani’s; and John Solomon, a conservative columnist, formerly with The Hill, who published a series of articles pushing debunked theories about U.S.-Ukraine relations. In addition were calls between Giuliani and the White House Office of Budget and Management (OMB), which was responsible for withholding the military aid to Ukraine which became central to the impeachment inquiry.
The Democrats claimed the call records reveal further coordination between the president and his associates, who worked together to oust the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine and then subsequently pressure Kyiv for investigations.
“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.
“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 Tuesday evening, 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 his office to press Ukrainian leaders to open investigations that would boost his reelection chances next year.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) 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 reads.
And Schiff on Tuesday declined to say whether he believes Trump should be removed from office, but he offered a stark warning about the danger of keeping a president with no boundaries in office.
“This is the result of a president who believes he is beyond indictment, beyond impeachment, beyond any form of accountability and indeed above the law. And that is a very dangerous thing for this country to have a president who believes they are above the law,” Schiff said during a press conference shortly after the report was released.
Schiff in the report also invoked the Founding Fathers, repeating warnings of those who blindly seek to grab power, hurting the will of the people in the process.
“In his farewell address, President George Washington warned of a moment when ‘cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion,’” the report reads.
The Democrats’ investigation centered on allegations that Trump sought to leverage a White House meeting and nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to commit publicly to opening two investigations: one into unfounded claims that it was Kyiv, not Moscow, that interfered in the U.S. 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 asserted that the evidence they collected in recent weeks makes it “clear” that Trump “conditioned official acts on the public announcement of these investigations: a coveted White House visit and critical U.S. military assistance Ukraine needed to fight its Russian adversary.”
Committee Democrats also hammered 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 Nixon, who was forced to resign in 1974, and suggested Trump will face a similar charge.
“It would be hard to imagine a stronger or more complete case of obstruction than that demonstrated by the President since the inquiry began,” they wrote, noting a dozen or so Trump officials who did not comply with subpoenas seeking testimony and documents.
Schiff, in the report, also claimed that while they expect the Ukraine-U.S. relationship will heal over time, “the damage to our system of checks and balances, and to the balance of power within our three branches of government, will be long-lasting and potentially irrevocable if the President’s ability to stonewall Congress goes unchecked.”
The Democrats’ report is the result of an extensive, if fast-moving, investigation that 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-Calif.), will meet Tuesday evening to adopt the report with a vote that’s almost sure to fall along strict partisan lines.
Afterwards, the impeachment inquiry will shift to the Judiciary Committee, which is charged with crunching the investigators’ findings to determine if Trump’s actions rise to the level of misconduct meriting impeachment.
Led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the Judiciary panel is set to stage its first hearing on the Ukraine affair Wednesday morning, when lawmakers will hear from four constitutional experts — three invited by Democrats and one by Republicans.
The GOP leaders of the Intelligence Committee had issued their own report on Monday, arguing that Trump did nothing wrong in his dealings with Zelensky and other Ukrainian leaders. The president, they argued, was merely seeking to ensure that U.S. tax dollars were not wasted to corruption in a country long known for it.