Trump calls Democrats’ impeachment push ‘unpatriotic’
President Trump criticized Democrats at the opening of a NATO leaders meeting Tuesday, calling the impeachment push by his rivals “unpatriotic” and “a bad thing for our country.”
Trump, who commented while meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, has criticized Democrats for holding an impeachment hearing while he is abroad.
The House Judiciary Committee has set a hearing on the constitutional grounds for Trump’s possible impeachment Wednesday just before he wraps up two days of meetings with NATO alliance members in London.
“I think it’s very unpatriotic of the Democrats to put on a performance,” Trump said. “I think it’s a bad thing for our country.”
Trump insists he’s solely focused on scoring domestic and foreign policy wins, including revamping NATO so that allies spend more on defense. But he’s often appeared consumed by the day-to-day battle against impeachment.
“I’m not even thinking about it,” Trump insisted anew Tuesday.
Democrats contend Trump abused his presidential powers by holding up aid to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son
But Trump was adamant that the cloud of impeachment wasn’t undercutting his negotiating position on the international stage.
“I know most of the leaders,” Trump said. “I get along with them. It’s a hoax. The impeachment is a hoax. It’s turned out to be a hoax. It’s done for purely political gain. They’re going to see whether or not they can do something in 2020 because otherwise they’re going to lose.”
The president’s comment came as the House is poised to release a landmark impeachment report outlining evidence of what it calls Trump’s wrongdoing regarding Ukraine, findings that will push Congress toward a debate over whether the 45th president should be removed from office.
Democrats on the Intelligence Committee are making the case that Trump engaged in behavior violating his oath of office and, in the course of their investigation, obstructed Congress by stonewalling the proceedings. Republicans are defending the president in a rebuttal claiming Trump never intended to pressure Ukraine when he asked for a “favor” — investigations of Democrats and Joe Biden. They say the military aid the White House was withholding was not being used as leverage, as Democrats claim, and besides the $400 million was ultimately released.
The findings being released Tuesday will lay the foundation for the Judiciary Committee to assess potential articles of impeachment, presenting a history-making test of political judgment with a case that is dividing Congress and the country.
Democrats once hoped to sway Republicans to consider Trump’s removal, but they are now facing the prospect of an ever-hardening partisan split over the swift-moving proceedings on impeaching the president.
Lawmakers were having their first look at the Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report Monday night behind closed doors, with the panel set to vote Tuesday to send it to the Judiciary Committee for a pivotal hearing Wednesday.
The findings are expected to forcefully make the Democrats’ case that Trump engaged in what Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) calls impeachable “wrongdoing and misconduct” in pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden and Democrats while withholding military aid to the ally.
For Republicans offering an early rebuttal ahead of the report’s public release, the proceedings are simply a “hoax,” with Trump insisting he did nothing wrong and his GOP allies in line behind him.
Possible grounds for impeachment are focused on whether Trump abused his office as he pressed Zelensky in a July 25 phone call to launch investigations into Trump’s political rivals. At the time, Trump was withholding $400 million in military aid, jeopardizing key support as Ukraine faced an aggressive Russia at its border.
The report also is expected to include evidence the Democrats say suggests obstruction of Congress, based on Trump’s instructions for his administration to defy subpoenas for documents and testimony.
The next step comes when the Judiciary Committee gavels open its own hearing with legal experts to assess the findings and consider potential articles of impeachment ahead of a possible vote by the full House by Christmas. That would presumably send it to the Senate for a trial in January.
The Democratic majority on the Intelligence Committee says its report, compiled after weeks of testimony from current and former diplomats and administration officials, will speak for itself in laying out the president’s actions toward Ukraine.
Republicans preempted the report’s public release with their own 123-page rebuttal.
In it, they claim there’s no evidence Trump pressured Zelensky. Instead, they say Democrats just want to undo the 2016 election. Republicans dismiss witness testimony of a shadow diplomacy being run by Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, and they rely on the president’s insistence that he was merely concerned about “corruption” in Ukraine — though the White House transcript of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky never mentions the word.
“They are trying to impeach President Trump because some unelected bureaucrats chafed at an elected President’s ‘outside the beltway’ approach to diplomacy,” according to the report from Republican Reps. Devin Nunes of Tulare, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Michael McCaul of Texas.
Schiff said the GOP response was intended for an audience of one, Trump, whose actions are “outside the law and Constitution.”
Democrats could begin drafting articles of impeachment against the president in a matter of days, with voting in the Judiciary Committee next week.
Republicans on the committee, led by Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, plan to use procedural moves to stall the process and portray the inquiry as unfair to the president.
The White House declined an invitation to participate, with counsel Pat Cipollone denouncing the proceedings as a “baseless and highly partisan inquiry” in a letter to Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).
Cipollone’s letter of nonparticipation applied only to the Wednesday hearing, and he demanded more information from Democrats on how they intended to conduct further hearings before Trump would decide whether to participate.
Nadler said Monday if the president really thought his call with Ukraine was “perfect,” as he repeatedly says, he would “provide exculpatory information that refutes the overwhelming evidence of his abuse of power.”
House rules provide the president and his attorneys the right to cross-examine witnesses and review evidence before the committee, but little ability to bring forward witnesses of their own.
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