House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Thursday blasted President Trump for asking China and Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, calling it a “fundamental breach” of presidential decorum and a threat to national security.
Emerging from a closed-door meeting in the Capitol basement, where lawmakers from three committees are interviewing a key witness as part of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, Schiff said the comments are evidence that Trump has ignored the lessons from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference — and Mueller’s warnings of ongoing foreign influence over critical domestic affairs.
“To have the president of the United States suggesting — urging — a foreign country to interfere in our presidential elections is an illustration that this president, if he learned anything from the two years of the Mueller investigation, it’s that he feels he can do anything with impunity,” Schiff told a crowd of reporters staking out the meeting.
“The president of the United States encouraging a foreign nation to interfere again to help his campaign by investigating a rival is a fundamental breach of the presidential oath of office,” Schiff continued. “It endangers our elections; it endangers our national security. It ought to be condemned by every member of this body, Democrats and Republicans alike.”
Hours earlier, Trump raised plenty of eyebrows when he called on the leaders of China and Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
“I would think that if they were honest about it they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Trump is already under fire after the recent revelation, unveiled in an anonymous whistleblower complaint, that Trump had urged Ukraine’s president in July to investigate corruption allegations against the Bidens.
In response, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), after months tamping down the impeachment push, endorsed a formal inquiry. As part of the process, Democrats have subpoenaed administration documents related to the Ukraine affair, while seeking depositions from a handful of current and former State Department officials with knowledge of the episode.
The first interview is being conducted Thursday in the Capitol, where Schiff is leading the deposition of Kurt Volker, the Trump administration’s former envoy to Ukraine. Also in attendance are members of the Oversight and Reform and Foreign Affairs committees.
Participating lawmakers of both parties have been tight-lipped about the details of their interview.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a close Trump ally, said Volker was providing “clarity” surrounding Trump’s July request to the Ukrainian president.
“Anytime that you can add clarity to what actually happened is a good day for Americans,” Meadows said. “And I think we’re getting more clarity.”