The US House of Representatives will vote Thursday on a resolution that formalizes the path forward in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, including upcoming public hearings, a senior Democratic aide said.
The measure will “lay out the next steps for the inquiry,” the aide told AFP Monday after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed fellow Democrats about the plan, which appears aimed at pushing back against Trump and Republicans who have argued an impeachment proceeding lacks authorization without a full floor vote.
“This resolution establishes the procedure for hearings that are open to the American people… outlines procedures to transfer evidence to the Judiciary Committee as it considers potential articles of impeachment, and sets forth due process rights for the President and his Counsel,” Pelosi wrote in her letter to lawmakers.
President Donald Trump accused the Democratic Party on Wednesday of wasting time on the impeachment probe sparked by the Ukraine scandal engulfing the White House, dismissing the inquiry as “bullshit.”
“The Do-Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016, 223-306.
“Get a better candidate this time, you’ll need it!”
Trump repeatedly misstates the Electoral College vote in his 2016 presidential race against Democrat Hillary Clinton. The official count was 304 to 227.
As Congress escalates its impeachment probe into the Ukraine scandal engulfing his presidency, President Donald Trump faces the White House press corps Wednesday on an investigation he has branded a “coup.”
The power struggle between Trump, who is accused of leaning on Ukraine’s president to dig up dirt on one of his main 2020 election rivals, and congressional Democrats appears to be entering ever more volatile territory.
Trump insists that he did nothing wrong in a phone call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky and on Wednesday he got support from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who said he saw “nothing compromising” in the conversation.
Given Trump’s controversial history with Putin, it was unlikely that the Kremlin leader’s backing would do much to calm waters back in Washington.
Trump has gone all out in his resistance, using language that would once have been inconceivable for a president, including his claim late Tuesday on Twitter that this is “not an impeachment, it is a COUP.”
It is “intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms,” Trump said.
After keeping pronouncements mostly to Twitter over the last week, Trump was due to give a press conference alongside visiting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.
He may also talk to journalists earlier when Niinisto arrives at around midday in Washington (1600 GMT).
Congress pushes back
Trump is accused of having pressured Zelensky to help him by opening a corruption investigation against leading Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in a July 25 phone call. He is alleged to have suggested that military equipment Ukraine sought to beef up its defenses against Russia would be contingent on him getting that favor.
A whistleblower, so far only identified as someone from the intelligence services, went to the authorities with concerns about the phone call, triggering the impeachment inquiry.
Trump has likened the whistleblower to a spy and called for his or her identity to be made public, although by law whistleblowers are protected. He has suggested that the lead congressional investigator overseeing the impeachment inquiry, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, should be arrested for “treason.”
Trump has also retweeted a warning that his removal from office could trigger “civil war.”
But Schiff and other Democrats in the lower house are pushing aggressively forward, with closed-doors hearings starting this week.
The State Department was due to brief congressional committees Wednesday on what it said were documents “related to the State Department and Ukraine.”
It was not clear what that would entail, but the State Department is closely caught up in the probe, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirming Wednesday previous reports that he listened in during the Zelensky call.
Earlier, Pompeo meanwhile accused Democrats of trying to “intimidate” and “bully” State Department employees. Democrats said he was “stonewalling” their investigation.
Pompeo and Trump’s controversial personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have been subpoenaed to provide documents. Five diplomats have so far been summoned to testify.
Pompeo suggested that the committees could be forced to subpoena the five officials, and that the State Department and White House could seek to limit what they can talk about.
“I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead,” Pompeo said.
News reports said the State Department’s former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, would testify Thursday and that the ex-ambassador to Kiev, Marie Yovanovitch, would appear behind closed doors on October 11.
Volker had been sought by Giuliani to help pressure Zelensky, while Yovanovitch was removed earlier this year as ambassador after she reportedly resisted that effort.
Pompeo himself risks greater pressure after the Democratic heads of the three investigating congressional committees said his being in on the phone call made him “a fact witness.”
US congresswomen targeted in remarks by Donald Trump said Monday that the president is promoting a “white nationalist agenda,” and vowed they would not be “silenced.”
Trump had stepped up his attacks on the four progressive Democratic congresswomen, saying if they’re not happy in the United States, “they can leave,” and accusing them of having “love” for US “enemies like Al-Qaeda.”
“All they do is complain,” Trump told reporters at a White House event featuring products “Made in America.”
“These are people that hate our country,” he said of the four lawmakers. “If you’re not happy here, you can leave.”
The US President has since come under fire from Democrats and even some members of his own Republican Party.
Asked by a reporter whether he was concerned that many people saw his comments as racist, Trump said: “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.”
Several hours after his remarks, the four — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — hit back at a news conference.
Pressley condemned Trump’s “xenophobic and bigoted” comments and said “we will not be silenced.”
Omar said Trump made a “blatantly racist attack” on four lawmakers “of color.” “This is the agenda of white nationalists,” she said.
Omar and Tlaib repeated calls for Trump to be impeached.
Democratic congressman Al Green, of Texas, separately said he would bring an impeachment vote to the House floor this month “for bigotry in policy, harmful to our society.”
The president first attacked the lawmakers — all but one of whom were born in America — with a series of tweets on Sunday, saying they should “go back” to their countries of origin.
His comments prompted critical reactions from foreign leaders, and outrage at home from Democrats — while Republicans were initially silent.
On Monday, several of his party faithful began to speak up.
“My view is that what was said and what was tweeted was destructive, was demeaning, was disunifying, and frankly it was very wrong,” said Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah.
“There is no excuse for the president’s spiteful comments — they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska. “We must demand a higher standard of decorum and decency.”
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said she disagreed with the policies espoused by the “far-left” Democratic lawmakers, but that Trump was “way over the line.”
For Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, “the citizenship of all four is as valid as mine.” He said “they are entitled to their opinions, however misguided they may be.”
Texan Will Hurd, the only black Republican in the House of Representatives, told CNN that Trump’s behavior was “unbecoming of the leader of the free world.”
And Senator Tim Scott, a black Republican from South Carolina, criticized the president for using “unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became the latest international leader to condemn Trump’s tweets.
“I completely and utterly disagree with him,” she told Radio New Zealand, noting that her country welcomed diversity in the corridors of power.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Britain’s Theresa May also expressed disapproval.
‘Cold, hard strategy’
Trump’s comments appear to be aimed at galvanizing his mostly white electoral base ahead of the 2020 presidential vote — while also stoking racial tensions and divisions among his political opponents.
“With his deliberate, racist outburst, @realDonaldTrump wants to raise the profile of his targets, drive Dems to defend them and make them emblematic of the entire party,” said David Axelrod, who served as chief strategist for Barack Obama’s two White House campaigns.
In his initial Twitter attack on Sunday, Trump — who before becoming president pushed the racist “birther” conspiracy theory that Obama was not born on US soil — said the congresswomen came from corrupt, poorly managed countries to which they should return.
Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley were all born in the United States while Omar arrived as a refugee from war-torn Somalia, which she fled as a child.
Former vice president Joe Biden, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, denounced Trump as the most “openly racist and divisive” president in US history.
“Go home to your country? It’s sickening, it’s embarrassing,” Biden said.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, has had a tenuous relationship with the four left-leaning congresswomen, but she jumped to their defense.
Pelosi said she was seeking Republicans to co-sponsor a House resolution “condemning the president’s xenophobic tweets” and “characterization of immigrants.”
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said he planned to do the same in the Senate.
US President Donald Trump said Monday that Congress “can’t impeach” him over the findings of the Mueller report into Russian election meddling and his alleged attempts to hamper the investigation.
Defiantly insisting that he did nothing wrong, Trump also denied a portrait of dysfunction in the White House where disobedient aides are said to have saved him from committing obstruction of justice by refusing to carry out his instructions.
Asked by reporters at a White House Easter event for children whether the prospect of impeachment worries him, Trump replied: “Not even a little bit.”
“Only high crimes and misdemeanours can lead to impeachment. There were no crimes by me (No Collusion, No Obstruction), so you can’t impeach,” Trump stated earlier on Twitter.
However, Democrats believe the Mueller report has revealed serious wrongdoing by the president and have yet to decide on impeachment.
The report confirmed that Russian operatives had attempted to interfere in the 2016 election to help Trump beat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, including by hacking into email accounts.
The probe also found that Trump’s campaign took advantage of the impact on Clinton, but did not deliberately reach out to collude with the Russians.
During the investigation, Trump repeatedly tried to hamper Mueller’s work, the report said.
But Mueller did not rule one way or the other on whether Trump had committed the crime of obstruction of justice, effectively leaving the matter to Congress.
Democrats, who control the lower house, are so far mostly holding off from calling for impeachment proceedings, which would be immensely divisive ahead of 2020 presidential elections.
However, Democratic 2020 hopeful Kamala Harris said during a presidential town hall broadcast on CNN Monday night that she believes “Congress should take the steps towards impeachment.”
That made her the second candidate to do so after Senator Elizabeth Warren called for impeachment proceedings last week.
But her Democratic rival Bernie Sanders said at the same event that while he supports a “thorough investigation,” he is concerned it may become a distraction in the bid to oust Trump in the 2020 election.
“If for the next year, year and a half, going right into the heart of the election, all that the Congress is talking about is impeaching Trump… and we’re not talking about… all of the issues that concern ordinary Americans, what I worry about is that works to Trump’s advantage,” Sanders said.
Powerful House committees still plan to dig further into the scandal and are pushing to be given the whole Mueller report, including parts currently blacked out for security or legal reasons.
“While our views range from proceeding to investigate the findings of the Mueller report or proceeding directly to impeachment, we all firmly agree that we should proceed down a path of finding the truth,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler issued a subpoena on Monday for former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify. McGahn was a key witness in the Mueller probe and will likely be asked about Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice.
‘Nobody disobeys’ Trump?
Trump is spinning the Mueller report as a complete exoneration. He has gone as far as saying repeatedly that the probe was a political hit job amounting to “treason” and “spying.”
Democrats, however, say the report has demonstrated in detail that Trump is unfit for office, even if the evidence would be insufficient to prove crimes in court.
Whatever the truth, Mueller’s report has inflicted damage on the former real estate tycoon and reality TV showman’s reputation through stories of close aides manoeuvring to stop the president from going too far in his attempts to slow down the probe.
“The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is large because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” Mueller wrote in his report.
This narrative clearly annoys Trump, who has built a career on his image as a ruthless boss, famous during his television performances on “The Apprentice” for telling contestants: “You’re fired!”
Even though the aides allegedly disobeyed him so that they could prevent more serious damage, Trump denied Monday that any sort of insubordination would be possible.
“Nobody disobeys my orders,” he said at the Easter event.
Trump also faces danger from congressional probes into his business interests and tax history, which — in a break with tradition — he has refused to make public.
On Monday, Trump and his businesses filed a Washington federal court lawsuit to try and block a subpoena issued by the House Oversight and Reform Committee to gain access to their financial records.
Donald Trump’s former personal attorney told Congress Wednesday US authorities are investigating illegal activities involving the president beyond those that have already been made public.
Cohen had spent hours addressing accusations that Trump paid hush money to two women in 2016, and directed his lawyer to lie about negotiations over a Moscow business deal, and was asked if he was aware of “any other wrongdoing or illegal act” regarding Trump that had yet to be addressed in the hearing.
A top Democrat in the US Congress has vowed to look into a report that President Donald Trump ordered his personal attorney to lie to Congress to hide dealings with Russia.
Adam Schiff, who heads the Intelligence Committee in the House of Representatives, was reacting to a report late Thursday by the online site BuzzFeed that Trump ordered lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress in 2017 about talks to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date,” Schiff tweeted.
“We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”
Trump also supported a Cohen plan to visit Russia during the presidential campaign to meet President Vladimir Putin to jump-start the Moscow tower negotiations according to BuzzFeed, which cites two unnamed federal law enforcement officials as sources.
The trip never materialized, and Trump has repeatedly and emphatically denied dealings with Russia during the campaign.
Cohen also provided Trump and two of his children — Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. — regular updates about the Moscow project, the sources told BuzzFeed.
Cohen, who was the real estate billionaire’s right-hand-man and fixer at his umbrella company the Trump Organization, in New York at the time, pleaded guilty last year to several charges including the violation of campaign finance laws by arranging hush payments ahead of the 2016 election to women who alleged extramarital affairs with Trump.
Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress by stating that the Trump Moscow project ended in January 2016, long before Trump became the Republican presidential nominee, when it actually extended into June 2016.
The New York lawyer, 52, was sentenced to three years in jail for the campaign finance violation and other charges.
His incarceration has been delayed while he provides support to ongoing investigations into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia and Trump’s finances.
Cohen is scheduled to testify to the House Oversight Committee, newly controlled by opposition Democrats, on February 7 about his work for Trump.
President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen will testify in Congress next month, lawmakers said Thursday, posing a potential new threat to the president as the Russia collusion investigation increasingly menaces the White House.
The newly Democrat-controlled House Oversight Committee said Thursday that Cohen will testify in a public session on February 7.
“I thank Michael Cohen for agreeing to testify before the Oversight Committee voluntarily,” Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said in a statement.
The US Congress approved a two-week funding extension on Thursday, averting a looming partial government shutdown but setting up a potentially bitter spending showdown just days before the Christmas holiday.
Lawmakers had until midnight Friday to fund several federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, and a major battle had been brewing over President Donald Trump’s desire for billions of dollars in border wall spending.
But in light of the death of ex-president George H.W. Bush, and the related memorial events in Washington, lawmakers came together to approve a short-term stopgap until December 21, allowing additional time for negotiations and debate.
The House and Senate each passed the extension by voice vote on Thursday, and Trump is expected to sign it.
The budget battle in the waning days of 2018 will focus squarely on Trump’s demand for $5 billion in funding for the wall that he has pledged to build along the US border with Mexico.
After losing the House in midterm elections last month, Republicans see the coming two weeks as the final opportunity to secure wall funding before Democrats take control of the chamber on January 3.
Democrats have said they are in no mood to negotiate over Trump’s wall, arguing that $1.6 billion in broader border security funding is sufficient.
“Let me be clear: the $1.6 billion cannot be used to construct any part of President Trump’s 30-foot-tall (nine-meter) concrete border wall,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.
“It can only be used for fencing, using technology currently deployed at the border, and only where the experts say fencing is appropriate and makes sense as a security feature.”
Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are expected to meet with Trump next week at the White House.
President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in a New York court Thursday to misleading Congress over the ongoing Russia investigation.
The 52-year-old exited a Manhattan federal court dressed in a suit on Thursday, ignoring questions from a mob of reporters and got wordlessly into the back of a vehicle before being driven away.
He pleads guilty to one count of making false statements relating to a real-estate deal at the roughly hour-long hearing, an official confirmed.
In September, his lawyer said Cohen had been providing “critical information” to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators.
Cohen, once one of Trump’s top aides, began talking with the Mueller investigation after he pleaded guilty on August 21 to bank fraud and campaign finance violations in a separate deal with New York prosecutors.
Mueller is investigating whether the Trump election campaign in 2016 colluded with Russian efforts to damage his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and whether Trump has sought to illegally obstruct the investigation.
But the span of the investigation also reportedly encompasses Trump’s business dealings, to which Cohen had a front row seat for years as a senior executive in the president’s real estate business in New York, the Trump Organization.
Once known as Trump’s “pit bull” and right-hand man, Cohen was privy to multi-million-dollar deals and payments to two alleged lovers — whose claims could have potentially sabotaged his boss’s 2016 election.
In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to charges involving his arrangement of payouts of hush money to those women — widely thought to be porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal — before the 2016 election.
Hanging Trump out to dry, Cohen testified under oath in court that the president directed him to break campaign finance law, while pleading guilty to bank and tax fraud.
United States’ Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, on Wednesday disputed a report saying he had unsuccessfully urged President Donald Trump to seek congressional approval ahead of last week’s air strikes in Syria.
Citing anonymous military and administration officials, The New York Times said Mattis had recommended Trump get approval from lawmakers before launching Friday’s cruise missile barrage against three targets the Pentagon said were tied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program.
“I have no idea where that story came from,” Mattis told reporters as he greeted Qatar’s defense minister, Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah, at the Pentagon.
“I found nothing in it that I could recall from my own last week’s activities.”
Chemical weapons inspectors are waiting to go into Douma, near Damascus, to probe allegations of a chemical gas attack on April 7 that prompted last week’s US-led response.
Mattis said the regime has previously used delays after such an attack to “try to clean up the evidence before the investigation team gets in. So it’s unfortunate they were delayed.”
Following the deadly Douma incident, Trump tweeted there would be a “big price to pay” after and promised missiles would be coming.
His remarks virtually ensured a response to the alleged chemical attack, even though many US lawmakers have expressed reservations over further military engagement in Syria unless Trump can articulate a long-term strategy for the country.
A Pentagon official told AFP that there was no debate at the White House, and that “everyone” agreed Trump had the authority needed to launch the strikes.
Later Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders denied the Times story and said Trump “appropriately ordered the strikes under his constitutional authorities.”
In the days since the US-led strikes, which also saw British and French jets launch missiles, debate in Washington has continued about whether Trump has the legal authority to conduct strikes against the Syrian regime.
On Monday, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would update war powers that first were passed in the days after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
US forces have largely been operating under this so-called AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) even though the Pentagon’s mission has grown far beyond what was envisioned in the early days of hunting Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Since 2001, presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Trump have relied on the authorities, along with a subsequent AUMF in 2002, as the basis for operations against armed Islamist groups.
One of the bill’s authors, Republican Senator Todd Young, said it “recognizes the unique nature of the Islamist terrorist threat, while also recognizing that Congress must exercise robust oversight.”
Former president Barack Obama faced sharp criticism when he tried and failed to have Congress approve a plan to attack Assad after the Syrian leader crossed Obama’s “red line” and used chemical weapons in 2013.
Top US lawmakers scrambled Thursday to rally support for a deal to keep the federal government open past a midnight deadline, as rebellion simmered among Republicans and Democrats over the bipartisan budget agreement struck to end the logjam.
Senators were expected to take up and pass the breakthrough bill later Thursday, and then send it to the House of Representatives — which will barely have time to debate it before government funding expires at midnight.
The six-week spending bill, which also raises the federal debt ceiling, would not only avert a second shutdown in three weeks, but would break the cycle of government funding crises in time for what is set to be a bruising campaign for November’s mid-term elections.
But a new wrinkle emerged as Republican Senator Rand Paul held up a speedy vote in opposition to the package’s substantial increase in federal spending limits.
“All Senator Rand Paul is asking for is a 15-minute vote on his amendment to restore the budget caps,” aide Sergio Gor said on Twitter. “He is ready to proceed at any time.”
Moving legislation quickly through the Senate requires consent by all 100 members, and with barely eight hours before the deadline, Senate leadership was leaning on Paul to drop his insistence on an amendment.
“I think it will all work out, but it’s up in the air,” number two Senate Republican John Cornyn told reporters.
Even if Paul relents and the measure passes the Senate, its fate in the House is uncertain, raising tensions as Congress scrambles to avoid what would be a second government shutdown in three weeks.
Fiscal conservatives in the House may balk at adding billions of dollars to the national debt two months after passing a $1.5 trillion tax cut package.
With party unity fraying, House Speaker Paul Ryan appeared to shrug off concerns that several Republicans might oppose the deal.
“I think we’re going to be fine,” Ryan said in a radio interview about the upcoming vote.
The temporary spending bill incorporates the major budget deal struck Wednesday between Senate leaders on both sides of the political aisle.
That agreement includes a $300 billion increase to both military and non-military spending limits for this year and 2019, and raises the debt until March 1 next year.
The bill also provides a massive $90 billion in disaster relief following deadly 2017 storms in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas, and funding to address the nationwide opioid abuse crisis.
“Not only will it end this series of… fiscal crises that have gridlocked this body, it will also deliver a large investment in our military and robust funding of middle-class programs,” the Senate’s top Democrat Chuck Schumer told colleagues.
“It’s a strong signal that we can break the gridlock that has overwhelmed this body and work together for the good of the country.”
‘Real commitment’ on immigration
The House Freedom Caucus of far-right Republicans has signalled possible roadblocks ahead by opposing the budget caps deal.
“We support funding our troops, but growing the size of government by 13 percent is not what the voters sent us here to do,” the group said on Twitter Wednesday.
Liberal stalwarts were also in revolt because the deal does nothing to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Democrats have been seeking to link the federal funding debate to a permanent solution for hundreds of thousands of “Dreamer” immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children.
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi — who has vowed to oppose the temporary bill — highlighted the concerns Wednesday with an extraordinary eight-hour address in which she demanded Ryan take action on immigration.
Dreamers were shielded from deportation under the Obama-era program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). But Trump ended the program last September, setting March 5 as a deadline for resolving the issue.
Facing tightening numbers for Thursday’s vote, Ryan said he was prepared to address the immigration issue head on.
“I know that there is a real commitment to solving the DACA challenge in both political parties. That’s a commitment that I share,” Ryan told reporters.
“To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill: do not.”
The White House’s current proposal — one that would put 1.8 million immigrants on a path to citizenship, but also boost border security, and dramatically curtail legal immigration — has been panned by Democrats.