House intelligence approves impeachment report accusing Trump of obstruction

Dec. 3 (UPI) — The House intelligence committee voted Tuesday to approve a report accusing President Donald Trump of obstructing their impeachment probe and asking Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential election.

The panel voted along party lines in favor of sending the document to the House Committee on the Judiciary, which will determine whether to move forward with articles of impeachment.

The 300-page report, released earlier Tuesday by the House committees on foreign affairs, intelligence, and oversight and reform, details the Democrats’ case for impeachment against Trump.

The document came after weeks of private and public hearings prompted by a whistle-blower’s report calling into question a July 25 phone call between Trump and newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In it, Trump asked his counterpart to investigate Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

In the report, Democrats said there’s sufficient evidence to suggest the Trump administration threatened to withhold $250 million in congressionally approved military aid and a meeting between the two leaders in exchange for the Biden probe.

“The President engaged in this course of conduct for the benefit of his own presidential reelection, to harm the election prospects of a political rival, and to influence our nation’s upcoming presidential election to his advantage,” the report reads.

“In doing so, the President placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the US presidential election process, and endangered US national security.”

Trump, who was in London for a NATO summit and meetings with British royalty, dismissed the report.

“At the end of a one-sided sham process, Chairman [Adam] Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said. “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.”

The report also accuses Trump of obstructing the impeachment inquiry, failing to cooperate and abuse of power.

“Indeed, 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 reads.

After a two-week hiatus, House Democrats will resume public hearings Wednesday in the impeachment investigation by questioning four constitutional law experts on Capitol Hill.

The House judiciary committee will hold the hearing at 10 a.m. EST Wednesday. The panel issued the witness list Monday, which includes professors Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School, Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School, Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School.

Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has framed the proceedings as an exploration of “the historical and constitutional basis for impeachment” charges against the president.

Last weekend, the White House declined an invitation to attend Wednesday’s hearing. Presidential counsel Pat Cipollone said the administration won’t participate in a process that “violates all past historical precedent, basic due process rights and fundamental fairness.”

Nadler called the White House response “unfortunate.”

“The American people deserve transparency,” he said.

Wednesday’s hearing is the judiciary committee’s first in the impeachment proceedings. Previous hearings were held by the House intelligence committee, which has been aided in the probe by the oversight and reform, and foreign affairs committees.

“If the president thinks the call was ‘perfect’ and there is nothing to hide then he would turn over the thousands of pages of documents requested by Congress, allow witnesses to testify instead of blocking testimony with baseless privilege claims, and provide any exculpatory information that refutes the overwhelming evidence of his abuse of power,” Nadler said.

“I did nothing wrong,” Trump told reporters in London Tuesday, where he attended events celebrating the 70th anniversary of NATO.

“The impeachment witch hunt, it’s really just a continuation of the hoax that’s been taking place for the last three years, and I think you know that.”

Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he might have to establish partisan rules for a potential impeachment trial if he can’t come to an agreement with Democrats.

“The first thing Sen. [Chuck] Schumer and I will do is see if there’s a possibility of agreement on a procedure,” he told reporters Tuesday. “That failing, I would probably come back to my own members and say: ‘OK, can 51 of us agree how we’re going to handle this?'”

McConnell said he may have difficulty even getting the members of his party to agree on the proper rules for a trial. He said it’s too early to predict how a trial would go if the House passes articles of impeachment.

“There is no answer at this point,” he said. “We don’t even know if we’re going to get it yet. It looks like we’ll get something.”