President Donald Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine’s government to deliver a political favor, then undertook an effort to obscure his conduct and obstruct a congressional investigation, the House Intelligence Committee concluded.
The report by the panel’s Democratic-majority on its months-long investigation said Trump compromised national security and embarked on a campaign to block and intimidate potential and actual witnesses to his Ukraine-related conduct. He also continued to seek assistance from foreign governments to probe a 2020 political rival, it said.
“This continued solicitation of foreign interference in a U.S. election presents a clear and present danger that the president will continue to use the power of his office for his personal political gain,” the report, released Tuesday, said in its summary.
The Democrats’ report makes no recommendation on possible articles of impeachment against the president, but makes a case in its point-by-point assertions that Trump broke the law.
“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,’” Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel wrote in a joint statement.
The White House dismissed the report. Press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump. This report reflects nothing more than their frustrations.”
At the heart of the impeachment inquiry was the president’s attempt during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to leverage the promise of White House meeting and the release of nearly $400 million U.S. aid to get Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden designed to benefit Trump politically. The new Ukrainian leader was seeking both as a show of legitimacy and support as his country battles Russian aggression.
“The president’s misconduct was not an isolated occurrence, nor was it the product of a naïve president,” the report said. “Instead, the efforts to involve Ukraine in our 2020 presidential election were undertaken by a president who himself was elected in 2016 with the benefit of an unprecedented and sweeping campaign of election interference undertaken by Russia in his favor, and which the president welcomed and utilized.”
It called the evidence of Trump’s misconduct and obstruction “overwhelming.”
The findings are set to be handed over to the House Judiciary Committee, which is taking over the next phase of the impeachment inquiry.
That panel, under chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, will begin formal impeachment hearings on Wednesday with the task of actually deciding whether to bring any articles against Trump to the House floor for a vote. Democrats have so far scheduled just the one hearing, but have been striving to complete any impeachment action by Christmas.
Any trial would be held in the Senate, where support for Trump has remained solid with the Republican majority.
A dissenting “minority report” from Intelligence Committee Republicans released Monday disputed that any of the Democrats’ allegations have been proven and that “none of the Democrats’ witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor.”
Rather, the Republican report stated that, “The Democrats’ impeachment inquiry paints a picture of unelected bureaucrats within the foreign policy and national security apparatus who fundamentally disagreed with President Trump’s style, world view, and decisions.”
“Their disagreements with President Trump’s policies and their discomfort with President Trump’s actions set in motion the anonymous, secondhand whistle-blower complaint. Democrats seized on the whistle-blower complaint to fulfill their years-old obsession with removing President Trump from office,” the Republican report said.
The report puts the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, at the center of an effort to force out the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and pressure Ukraine’s government on Trump’s behalf to investigate Biden and his son, as well as a conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and aided Democrats.
The House obtained AT&T call records showing Giuliani in contact with the phone numbers associated with the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, as well as associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, when he was publicly discussing his efforts to pursue investigations into the Bidens and a conspiracy theory about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
And the committee also found Giuliani in contact on Aug. 8 with numbers associated with the White House, and European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland also in contact with White House and OMB phone numbers on Aug. 9 as negotiations with Ukrainian officials about announcing investigations were ongoing.
One of those Sondland calls came minutes before a text message he sent saying that he thought Trump really wanted the “deliverable” -- which Sondland later said was an announcement of investigations sought by Trump and Giuliani.
Sondland would later testify that there was a “quid pro quo” of an announcement of investigations in return for a White House meeting with Trump.
The report from the Democrats also implicates Trump subordinates in helping to further his Ukraine “scheme,” including acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, former Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.
They and other senior administration officials had “knowledge of, in some cases facilitated and furthered the president’s scheme, and withheld information about the scheme from the Congress and the American public,” the report states.
The Intelligence panel’s findings are the culmination of an investigation that began in conjunction with the Oversight and Reform and Foreign Affairs committees in late September. That was when a whistle-blower’s report brought to light a July 25 phone conversation between Trump and Zelenskiy.
The whistle-blower reported that some officials raised concerns that Trump may have broken the law by raising the prospect of a Biden investigation. The complaint also detailed efforts by White House lawyers to “lock down” records of the call in a secure electronic system not typically used for such material.
Following nearly a month of closed-door depositions and other evidence collecting, two weeks of public hearings delivered even more evidence linking Trump and senior administration officials to investigations of Biden and the 2016 election. The 12 career diplomats, civil servants and political appointees who testified also detailed the back-channel diplomacy led Giuliani, which undermined long-held U.S. foreign policy objectives, the report states.