U.S. House Democrats leading the impeachment probe on Tuesday released a report detailing their case against President Donald Trump, saying he used “the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.”
The report detailed three months of public and private testimony and more than 100 hours of deposition testimony from 17 witnesses. The document, drawn up by the House Intelligence Committee, laid out a lengthy timeline outlining a campaign orchestrated by Trump and his supporters to leverage US$400 million in needed military aid from Ukraine in exchange for information on former vice-president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
“The impeachment inquiry has found that President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the U.S. government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection,” the report read.
“Indeed, President Trump continues to encourage Ukraine and other foreign countries to engage in the same kind of election interference today,” the report read.
“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 report also cited Trump’s removal of the United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, after a “ruthless smear campaign was waged against her” by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his associates.
Yovanovitch, who was known for aggressively advocating for anti-corruption reforms in Ukraine, was replaced by what the report calls three “political appointees” who were more willing to commit “an improper domestic political errand” than fighting corruption.
The committee’s report ultimately left to another panel to decide whether to remove Trump from office.
At a news conference on Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff said the report chronicles Trump’s “scheme” to interfere in the upcoming U.S. election, and said letting these actions slide would be opening the door for more.
He noted Trump instructed multiple witnesses to not appear before Congress, and tried to intimidate members from appearing.
Schiff said the report showed damning evidence that Trump believed he needed an investigation into political rival Joe Biden, as well as an investigation into a now-debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine — not Russia — who interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
“That conspiracy is a Russian narrative, that is, a conspiracy theory put out, promulgated by Vladimir Putin to deflect attention away from Russia’s interference in our own election and to try to drive a wedge between the United States and nation of Ukraine.”
Schiff called Trump’s elicit actions a betrayal of Americans’ trust that Americans should ‘care deeply about.’
“This is not about Ukraine, this is about our democracy. This is about our national security. This is about whether the American people have a right to expect that the president of the United States is going to act in their interests,” said Schiff. “If we don’t care about this, we can darn well be sure the president will be back at this, doing it all over again.”
During the press conference, Schiff also accused the Republican Party of becoming “so wedded” to Trump that they were “unwilling to do their constitutional duty.”
Recalling Mick Mulvaney’s October on-camera press conference that told the world to expect corruption from the U.S. president and “get over it,” Schiff said:
“I for one don’t think we should get over this. I don’t think we should get used to this. I don’t think that’s what the founders of this country had in mind.”
In a tweet, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff said the inquiry uncovered “overwhelming and uncontested evidence” that Trump “abused the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference” in America’s election for “his own personal, political gain.”
“No one is above the law,” he wrote.
Earlier on Tuesday, U.S. State Department official David Hale said he saw no evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
“I’ve seen nothing that’s credible,” he said.
The committee is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. to vote on the reports findings.
Speaking to reporters at a NATO meeting in London earlier on Tuesday, Trump once again called the hearings a “witch hunt.”
He then took aim at Schiff, calling him a “liar.”
“I think he’s a maniac,” Trump said. “Adam Schiff is a deranged human being.”
The inquiry centres around whether Trump froze nearly US$400 million in military aid to pressure Ukraine to publicly announce separate investigations into interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as former vice-president and political rival Joe Biden’s son Hunter and his work on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Trump has vehemently denied the allegation, but has acknowledged that he did block the funds, which were later released.
-With files from Reuters, David Lao