Schiff says probe will continue after impeachment report finds ‘overwhelming evidence’ Trump abused office
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee approved the report of their two-month investigation into President Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine on Tuesday, concluding that “the evidence of the President’s misconduct is overwhelming” as they barrel toward an expected vote to impeach him.
Not only did Trump improperly pressure Ukraine in an effort to extract political favors, the report says, but he also obstructed the congressional investigation of his actions.
“It would be hard to imagine a stronger or more complete case of obstruction than that demonstrated by the President since the inquiry began,” the report says. The committee approved the report by a 13-9 party-line vote, forwarding the case to the Judiciary Committee, which has the job of formally drafting articles of impeachment.
“The damage to the constitutional system of separation of powers will be long-lasting and potentially irrevocable if the President’s ability to stonewall Congress goes unchecked,” the report says. “Any future President will feel empowered to resist an investigation into their own wrongdoing, malfeasance, or corruption, and the result will be a nation at far greater risk of all three.”
The report’s extensive discussion of obstruction by the White House, along with comments from Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, strongly indicate that obstruction could be a key part of an impeachment resolution.
Schiff (D-Burbank) said in an interview that the panel’s investigation will continue, focusing on whether Trump’s pressure campaign against Ukraine, as Democrats call it, began even earlier than previously known.
The committee revealed in its report that it obtained a series of call logs among key players in the Ukraine affair, including Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani. The logs show several calls to an unidentified White House official with a number dubbed "-1.”
Schiff said he suspects that number could be the president’s, pointing to “testimony in the Roger Stone case in which there was a similar '-1' digit number that did indicate the president.”
“Whether that is the case here or not, we’re endeavoring to find out,” he said. “When you look at the context, I think there is certainly circumstantial indications of who Rudy Giuliani or others are talking to.”
The call logs also show several conversations among Giuliani, his associate Lev Parnas, who is now under federal indictment, and the Intelligence Committee’s senior Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes of Tulare. The logs do not reveal the contents of the calls.
Schiff said he’s not yet prepared to say that articles of impeachment are warranted, citing the Judiciary Committee’s role in writing and debating articles, but the report his committee compiled left little doubt about the conclusion.
The chairs of the three committees that worked on the investigations said Congress would have to decide whether the actions they describe in the report are impeachable.
“It will be up to the Congress to determine whether these acts rise to the level of an impeachable offense, whether the President shall be held to account, and whether we as a nation are committed to the rule of law — or, instead, whether a president who uses the power of his office to coerce foreign interference in a U.S. election is something that Americans must simply ‘get over,’” they said in a statement accompanying the report.
Republicans issued a 123-page alternative report late Monday that concluded that Trump committed no impeachable offenses, participated in no cover-up and did not obstruct justice.
“The evidence presented does not prove any of these Democrat allegations, and none of the Democrats’ witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor,” said the Republican report, which provided a preview of the arguments that Republican members of Congress expect to make as the impeachment inquiry moves toward a likely House floor vote later this month.
The Republican report accused Democrats of engaging in a partisan impeachment inquiry focused on “settling political scores and re-litigating election results with which they disagreed.”
Democrats are attempting to make the case that Trump committed an impeachable offense by leveraging two officials acts — providing hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine and agreeing to a White House meeting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sought — for his own political advantage.
Democrats say the evidence shows that the aid was frozen and the White House meeting withheld to pressure Zelensky into announcing that his government would open investigations into Trump’s political enemies, including an energy company that once employed the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
Republicans explained the delay in military aid and Trump’s “initial hesitation to meet with President Zelensky” as “entirely prudent” in light of Ukraine’s history of corruption and Trump’s long-held skepticism of U.S. foreign aid.
“Senior Ukrainian officials under former President Petro Poroshenko publicly attacked then-candidate Trump during the 2016 campaign — including some senior Ukrainian officials who remained in their positions after President Zelensky’s term began,” the Republicans said. “All of these factors bear on the President’s state of mind and help to explain the President’s actions toward Ukraine and President Zelensky.”
The Republicans argue that Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky, in which the president asked the Ukrainian leader for a “favor,” displayed no “quid pro quo or indication of conditionality, threats, or pressure—much less evidence of bribery or extortion.”
Schiff said in a statement the Republican report is “intended for an audience of one” and “ignores voluminous evidence” of wrongdoing by the president. He also said that the Intelligence Committee investigation will continue after the panel forwards its report to the Judiciary Committee. There are still “unanswered questions,” he said Tuesday.
The 300-page Democratic report includes information gleaned from dozens of subpoenas for documents and testimony, more than 100 hours of deposition testimony from 17 witnesses and seven public hearings with testimony from 12 witnesses.
The report devotes roughly 100 pages to obstruction efforts by Trump, documenting the president’s extensive refusal to participate in the inquiry.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that the report proves nothing.
“At the end of a one-sided sham process, Chairman Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President 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,” she said.
The call records detailed in the report involve several key players in the investigation, including some who have refused to comply with the committee’s inquiries. Schiff wouldn’t comment on the source of specific records, but the report indicates some were obtained by subpoenas directed at phone companies.
Giuliani has denied having any conversations about military aid to Ukraine. The phone records obtained by the committee, however, show multiple calls between him and phone numbers associated with the Office of Management and Budget, which placed the hold on the money.
The former New York mayor declined to comment when reached by text message Tuesday.
The call logs show Giuliani, Parnas and Nunes had several conversations during the period in the spring in which he was trying to undermine Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, including on April 24, the day she was told to return to Washington.
Giuliani also spoke with John Solomon, a columnist who wrote disputed articles about Ukraine for the Hill newspaper in Washington, and with two Nunes allies who have worked for the committee and the National Security Council.
Those calls suggests that Nunes may have had more extensive knowledge about the matters the committee had under investigation. Nunes has criticized Schiff for being part of the process because the whistleblower whose complaint kicked off the Ukraine scandal initially contacted Schiff’s committee staff.
Nunes’ aides did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday, but Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) defended Nunes to reporters.
“Devin Nunes has a right to talk to anybody,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong that Devin has done.”
Schiff suggested otherwise: “I would only say, I guess, with respect to the ranking member — and this is even more the case with the president — there’s a tendency to project onto others what they themselves are engaged in,” he said.
The Judiciary Committee plans to begin its impeachment hearings Wednesday with testimony from four legal scholars meant to educate representatives, and the public, about the constitutional grounds for impeachment. Trump has declined to participate or send an attorney to participate in the hearing.
The Judiciary Committee will hear from three witnesses called by the Democrats — Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman, Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan and North Carolina University law professor Michael Gerhardt, who gave similar testimony at the beginning of the Clinton impeachment process. Republicans tapped as their witness George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, who has written extensively about the Trump impeachment inquiry and has been critical of the Democrats for, in his view, rushing the process.
The report’s approval marks the end of the Intelligence Committee’s formal role in the impeachment process, a journey that began earlier this year when Schiff was skeptical of pursuing the divisive procedure.
Schiff said he became convinced that the inquiry was warranted when he realized that the call between Trump and Zelensky occurred the day after former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III testified to Congress.
“That was one of those ‘holy crap’ moments where the conclusion about the president and his conviction he’s above the law is just inescapable,” Schiff said.
Times staff writers Chris Megerian and Molly O’Toole contributed to this report.
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