US Senate Begins Debate In Trump Impeachment Trial

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, arrives for the Senate impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 21, 2020. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

The historic impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump opened the debate with fireworks Tuesday as Democrats accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of fomenting a “cover-up” with his proposed rules for the process.

The Republican McConnell proposed a set of ground rules that would place strict restrictions on witnesses and evidence for the first stage and move the trial quickly ahead, saying he would summarily block any Democratic attempts to change his rules.

READ ALSO: Three Killed As Storm Hits Spain, Forces Closure Of Schools

“The basic structure we’re proposing is just as eminently fair and even-handed.

“There is no reason why the vote on this resolution ought to be remotely partisan,” he said.

AFP

Trump Impeachment Probe: Democrats Seek To Shape Senate Trial

File Photo: US President Donald Trump gestures during a working lunch at the NATO summit at the Grove hotel in Watford, northeast of London on December 4, 2019.
Nicholas Kamm / AFP

 

US Democrats signaled Monday they were girding for battle over witnesses and fair process in the Senate trial of Donald Trump, days ahead of a historic House vote on impeaching the president for abuse of office and obstruction of Congress.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said he was aiming for proceedings to start January 6 that would mete out “swift but fair justice” to Trump, even as Republican loyalists acknowledged they were less interested in being impartial jurors than protecting the president.

Lawmakers were beginning a consequential week. House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler released a 658-page report Monday outlining the case for impeaching Trump and detailing his alleged wrongdoing, including pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democrats.

It alleged severe episodes of “criminal” conduct by the president including bribery — rebutting the Republican argument that Democrats have identified no specific criminal wrongdoing by Trump.

“President Trump’s abuse of power encompassed both the constitutional offense of ‘bribery’ and multiple federal crimes,” it said, adding Trump’s conduct was “unlike anything this nation has ever seen.”

The House Rules Committee was set to meet Tuesday to lay down guidelines for a floor debate on impeachment.

When the Democratic-controlled House convenes Wednesday to weigh the two charges approved by the Judiciary Committee, Trump is expected to become only the third US president to be impeached, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.

Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 just before a House impeachment vote. Neither Johnson nor Clinton was convicted in the Senate.

‘Just the Facts’

Trump is also unlikely to be removed from office by the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53-47 majority.

But Schumer has pressed hard for a fair process, writing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to demand four key witnesses testify, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Trump’s ex-national security advisor John Bolton.

Schumer also sought to set limits on testimony length and questioning of witnesses, proposing a structure that would give Americans what he called “confidence in the process.”

“Just the facts. We don’t need fishing expeditions,” Schumer told CNN. “We’re trying to have the kind of justice America is known for, which is swift but fair justice.”

Senate rules on impeachment are determined by a simple majority vote in the chamber. Although Schumer is looking to strike a deal with McConnell on the rules, it will be the will of the majority that wins out.

Democrats have bridled at McConnell’s recent promise of “total coordination” with the White House, as well as Senator Lindsey Graham’s apparent dismissal of the need to be an impartial juror in the process.

“I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here,” the Trump loyalist said Sunday, rejecting the charges against Trump as “partisan nonsense.”

One of the two impeachment articles to go before the House charges Trump with abuse of power for conditioning military aid and a White House meeting on Ukraine’s announcing investigations into Democrats ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

The other charges him with obstructing Congress for refusing to cooperate with the inquiry and ordering other officials not to appear, a development Democrats say is unprecedented in American history.

The president has repeatedly assailed the process and the Democrats conducting it.

“The Impeachment Hoax is the greatest con job in the history of American politics!” he boomed Monday on Twitter.

The impeachment hearings have been a sometimes grim exercise for Democrats, who fear moderate members of the party from Trump-friendly districts could lose their seats next year if they vote to impeach.

One Democrat opposed to impeachment, New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew, is expected to switch allegiance to the Republican Party this week.

A handful of freshman Democrats are mulling opposing impeachment. One of them, former CIA officer Elissa Slotkin, said Monday she would vote to impeach Trump.

If a president admits to inviting foreign interference in US elections and “solicits additional help from even more capable foreign governments (including China) then isn’t it our constitutional duty to provide a clear response to that abuse of power?” she wrote in the Detroit Free Press.

Democrats Unveil Impeachment Charges Against Trump

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi next to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, Democrat of New York, announces articles of impeachment for US President Donald Trump during a press conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, December 10, 2019.  SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment Tuesday against US President Donald Trump after weeks of arguing there is overwhelming evidence that the US leader abused his office and deserves to be removed.

If the charges — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — are approved by the full House of Representatives in a vote expected next week, it would put Trump in the historic position of being the third US leader ever impeached and placed on trial in the Senate.

“Our president holds the ultimate public trust,” said House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler.

“When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the constitution, he endangers our democracy and he endangers our national security.”

Nadler, in a solemn and deeply serious moment for the nation, was joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the US Capitol to lay out the charges facing Trump.

The president is alleged to have wielded the power of the presidency for personal and political gain by pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 US election.

His accusers say he conditioned vital military aid and a much-sought White House meeting on Kiev announcing it would investigate Democratic former vice president Joe Biden, who is the frontrunner to challenge Trump in the 2020 election.

He also pressed his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to probe a debunked Kremlin conspiracy theory that it was Kiev, and not Moscow, that interfered in the 2016 US election.

The charges also focus on Trump’s efforts to block Congress from fully investigating his actions — which Democrats see as a violation of its constitutional right to conduct oversight of the executive branch.

“The evidence of the president’s misconduct is overwhelming and uncontested,” said House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, who oversaw weeks of public hearings in which witnesses including Trump administration officials and US diplomats testified about the pressure on Ukraine.

“To do nothing would make ourselves complicit in the president’s abuse of his high office,” Schiff said, adding that Trump’s “misconduct goes to the heart of whether we can conduct a free and fair election in 2020.”

Trump, who has long assailed the Democrats for pursuing impeachment, maintained his fighting posture early Tuesday, tweeting that the effort to oust him as “sheer Political Madness!”

Democrats on Monday laid out their case for ouster with a nearly 10-hour public hearing in which they declared Trump a “clear and present danger” to national security.

It is widely understood that Democrats were debating whether to unveil a third article of impeachment — obstruction of justice — against Trump, but concluded it would be better to keep the charges narrowly focused on Trump’s Ukraine pressure effort.

Should Trump be impeached, as expected, he faces a weeks-long trial in January in the US Senate, which is controlled by members of his Republican Party.

Removal from office is unlikely, given that conviction requires a two-thirds vote in the 100-member chamber, and no Republicans have yet signaled they would side with Democrats against the president.

 

AFP

Democrats Set To Release Trump Impeachment Report

US President Donald Trump attends a roundtable discussion on the MS-13 gang in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC.  MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Democrats were set Tuesday to approve their  report on the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump, paving the way for formal charges against the US leader that could include abuse of power, bribery and obstruction.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who has led the 10-week-old investigation, said it was important to move quickly because the evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing is “overwhelming.”

“We feel a sense of urgency,” Schiff told MSNBC late Monday.

“This is a president who has sought foreign intervention in US elections twice now, and even in the midst of our impeachment inquiry, is again out publicly saying, not only should Ukraine do this, but China should also investigate my opponent,” he said.

“And so this is a threat to the integrity of the upcoming election, and we don’t feel it should wait, in particular when we already have overwhelming evidence of the president’s misconduct.”

 Trump: impeachment is ‘a hoax’ 

In London for a NATO summit, Trump again accused the Democrats of playing a political game with impeachment.

“The impeachment is a hoax. It’s turned out to be a hoax. It’s done for purely political gain,” he said .

“All you have to do is read the transcripts, you’ll see there was absolutely nothing done wrong,” he added, referring to the records of his calls with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky earlier this year.

The completion of the Schiff report marks the end of the first stage of the impeachment process, which was sparked by an August complaint by an anonymous whistleblower detailing Trump’s pressure on Zelensky to investigate rival Democrats ahead of next year’s elections.

The report is expected to support charges of abuse of power, bribery, obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress, based on evidence from more than a dozen witnesses who depicted Trump withholding military aid and a White House summit unless Zelensky opened the investigations.

Schiff said the report will be made public Tuesday and, after formal approval by his committee, will be sent to the Judiciary Committee where formal charges, or articles of impeachment, will be drawn up.

The Judiciary Committee, led by longtime Trump nemesis Jerry Nadler, will open hearings on Wednesday with four legal experts expected to discuss whether the Democrats’ impeachment process and the charges against the president adhere to the US Constitution.

Trump’s White House counsel Pat Cipollone has refused an offer to take part, calling the inquiry “baseless and highly partisan” and violating “fundamental fairness.”

But Cipollone reserved the right to join in subsequent Judiciary hearings, in which the charges are debated and further witnesses could be called.

Impeachment by Christmas? 

There is no formal timeframe for the impeachment process.

But Democrats have aimed to hold a full House vote on articles of impeachment before the body goes on break for Christmas, December 25.

If, as expected, the articles are passed by the Democrat-controlled House, the case will go to the Republican-controlled Senate for a trial in January.

Republicans pushed back on Monday ahead of release of the Schiff report, saying in their own review of the testimony that there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

“The evidence presented does not prove any of these Democrat allegations, and none of the Democrats’ witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor.”

AFP

Debate Exposes Divides Among Democrats Despite United Front On Trump

Democratic presidential hopefuls (L-R) Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speak during the fifth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia on November 20, 2019. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

 

Divides between Democrats vying to challenge President Donald Trump in the 2020 election were laid bare in a combative debate Wednesday, as the campaign’s rising star Pete Buttigieg acknowledged he faced challenges in attracting black voters.

Buttigieg, the contest’s youngest candidate who occupies the same moderate lane as frontrunner Joe Biden, offered a unifying message as a way to bring Democrats and Republicans toward a broad political middle.

Democrats can seize a majority on issues like immigration and guns “if we can galvanize, not polarize that majority,” Buttigieg told the debate in Georgia.

READ ALSO: Europe’s Prisons Not Monitoring Inmates’ Health, Says WHO

But after an opening phase dominated by talk of impeachment of Trump, participants in the fifth Democratic debate locked horns over the costly universal health care program supported by liberal senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

“I believe that commanding people to accept that option, whether we wait three years as Senator Warren has proposed or whether you do it right out of the gate is not the right approach to unify the American people around a very, very big transformation that we now have an opportunity to deliver,” Buttigieg said.

Former vice president Biden also took aim at the trillion-dollar reform, saying it would be wiser to build on existing Obamacare and provide a public option.

“The fact is that right now the vast majority of Democrats do not support Medicare for All,” Biden said.

Biden is the face of the Democratic Party establishment and is the current frontrunner. He turned 77 on Wednesday and appeared to stumble over his words on several occasions, including during his opening remarks.

Buttigieg, the military veteran mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who at 37 is less than half Biden’s age, sought to paint himself as a young outsider who should be elected commander-in-chief despite his slender resume.

“I get it’s not traditional establishment Washington experience, but I would argue we need something very different right now,” Buttigieg, mayor of a small city in Indiana, told his rivals.

But when pressed by Senator Kamala Harris, the only black woman in the race, about his low polling among African-American voters, Buttigieg acknowledged he had yet to convince one of the party’s most important constituencies.

“I welcome the challenge of connecting with black voters in America who don’t yet know me,” said Buttigieg, the first major openly-gay US presidential candidate.

“While I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country.”

Biden leads in national polling, followed by Warren and Sanders.

But Buttigieg has cracked into the top tier in the past month, and now tops the polls in Iowa which stages the first nomination contest in February.

Warren was the candidate to watch last month but her campaign has plateaued.

She has made headway by pledging to end a system that she described during the debate as working “better for… the rich and well-connected, and worse and worse for everyone else.

“I’m tired of freeloading billionaires,” she said.

As the 10 qualifying candidates rumbled in their nationally televised showdown, dominating the political discourse is the high-stakes impeachment hearings into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

Democrats accuse Trump of conditioning military aid and a White House meeting on Kiev’s announcing investigations of Biden and his son Hunter, who worked with a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president.

But some candidates warned that obsessing over the president could sabotage Democrats’ efforts.

“We cannot simply be consumed by Donald Trump,” Sanders said. “Because if we are, you know what? We’re going to lose the election.”

– Trump ‘punked’ –

With attention directed at Capitol Hill, the debate run-up has been low-key.

But candidates lept at the chance to critique Trump’s foreign policy on North Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Harris landed a sharp blow, saying Trump “got punked” by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

One of the most heated exchanges came when Buttigieg ridiculed long-shot candidate Tulsi Gabbard for meeting “a murderous dictator” like Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad as the mild-mannered mayor snapped back at criticism over recent comments on Mexico.

There were lighter moments too. Senator Cory Booker, known for his moral calls to action, used humor to upbraid Biden for recently saying he opposed legalizing marijuana nationally.

“I thought you might have been high when you said it,” said Booker, who went on to declare that America’s war on drugs has been “a war on black and brown people.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and investor-turned-activist Tom Steyer rounded out the contenders.

The field may soon expand to include billionaire businessman and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg who has recently filed ballot paperwork in two states.

Trump ‘Strongly Considers’ Testifying In His Impeachment Probe

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 13, 2019 US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a group of Republican senators in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. 
MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

President Donald Trump said Monday he is “strongly” considering accepting a challenge from opposition Democrats to testify in his own impeachment investigation.

After the speaker of the lower house, Nancy Pelosi, upped the ante by suggesting that Trump come forward to tell the “truth,” the Republican president said he was keen.

Pelosi suggested “that I testify about the phoney Impeachment Witch Hunt. She also said I could do it in writing,” Trump tweeted.

“Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”

READ ALSO: Is America Ready For A Gay President? Buttigieg Surge Poses Question

It was unclear what kind of testimony the president had in mind.

His defence team would likely be highly resistant to the idea of him appearing before the House Intelligence Committee delving into the allegation that Trump pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political rival to help his 2020 reelection chances.

During the lengthy probe led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller into accusations that Trump worked with Russians to boost his 2016 election chances, the president refused a face-to-face meeting and instead answered questions in written form.

Even so, his lawyers negotiated strict limits on what kind of questions could be put. In dozens of instances, Trump then said he could not “recall” the facts.

The Mueller report ultimately found that Russian agents sought to influence the US election but that there was no evidence of collusion with the Trump campaign.

Trump’s Frustration

Any testimony by Trump would potentially be risky and his tweet could be nothing more than a tactical move in the tussle with Pelosi’s Democrats.

However, the president’s testifying would not be unprecedented.

During his 1998 impeachment saga, president Bill Clinton, a Democrat, testified before a federal grand jury for four hours by video link. He then answered 81 written questions from the House Judiciary Committee.

Clinton was ultimately impeached in the House but acquited in the Senate.

Trump has become increasingly angry and frustrated over the impeachment process, which he insists is a “witch hunt.” Democrats say they are steadily revealing corruption and abuse of office at the heart of the real estate magnate’s presidency.

This week will see another stream of witnesses come before the Intelligence Committee, where they face questions from Democrats and Republicans.

Although the action is happening at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, Trump watches closely — so closely that on Friday he tweeted an attack on one witness as she testified.

Former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was telling lawmakers how she had been forced out of her post in oddly abrupt circumstances around the time of the alleged Trump scheme in the ex-Soviet republic.

In mid-testimony, Trump tweeted that “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.”

This caused widespread consternation in the hearing room and Yovanovitch called the president’s intervention “very intimidating.”

Trump and his supporters have argued that the allegations against him so far are not supported by first-hand witnesses. That will change, however, on Wednesday when the US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, takes questions.

Sondland was in direct contact with Trump during the time when he was meeting with Ukrainian officials, allegedly as a key player in efforts by a small group of Trump confidants to push for the dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The House, where Democrats hold a majority, is expected to impeach Trump, although Republicans will likely vote solidly against. A trial would then be scheduled in the Senate where the Republican majority is expected to toss out the case.

However, Trump, in this case, would still be only the third president ever impeached and the fight is likely to have unpredictable fallout in the 2020 election.

A poll released Monday confirmed that the country is split more or less down the middle on whether Trump should be removed from office.

Fifty-one percent of those asked said they think Trump should be tried and convicted in the US Senate, while another six percent favour impeachment but not removal, according to the ABC News-Ipsos poll.

AFP

Explosive Testimony Boosts Case For Trump’s Impeachment, Say Democrats

 

US lawmakers leading an impeachment probe into Donald Trump turned their focus on Tuesday to the State Department amid a torrent of explosive testimony over the president’s foreign policy that they say strengthens the case for his removal.

Democrats on Capitol Hill were due to hear from George Kent, a top official in the State Department who was in on the infamous July 25 phone call in which Trump urged his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate one of the US president’s domestic political rivals.

His appearance comes a day after former White House aide Fiona Hill testified during a 10-hour deposition that Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was running a shadow foreign policy in order to personally benefit the president, according to several US media outlets.

As the Democratic 2020 hopefuls gathered in Ohio for their fourth presidential debate, lawmakers returned from a two-week recess to a deepening crisis sparked by the accusations.

Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell told CNN Hill’s deposition had bolstered the argument for removing Trump, and said his party would be swift and “surgical” in building the case.

“Every arrow continues to point in the same direction,” he said.

But Trump accused Democrats of hiding the investigation behind closed doors, saying on Twitter: “Democrats are allowing no transparency at the Witch Hunt hearings.

“Let the facts come out from the charade of people, most of whom I do not know, they are interviewing for 9 hours each, not selective leaks,” Trump fumed.

 ‘Hand grenade’ 

Democrats are seeking information related to Trump pressing Ukraine to uncover dirt on White House contender Joe Biden, while allegedly conditioning almost $400 million in US military aid on that favor.

The Times reported that Hill said her then-boss, former national security advisor John Bolton, grew alarmed by Giuliani’s efforts, in conjunction with White House chief-of-staff Mick Mulvaney, to pressure Ukraine.

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Rudy and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Bolton said, according to Hill’s testimony as reported by the Times.

She is said to have testified that Bolton warned that Giuliani, who is reportedly under federal investigation over his Ukraine dealings, is “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everyone up.”

She also said she and other officials had raised concerns with the White House national security lawyer, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Swalwell, one of the Democrats involved in the investigation, said Hill’s testimony supported the case for impeaching Trump.

“Every arrow continues to point in the same direction,” he told CNN of her testimony.

 Senior diplomats to testify 

Tuesday’s appearance by Kent, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, was due to be followed Wednesday by testimony from former senior diplomat Michael McKinley, who resigned last week.

On Thursday investigators will hear from US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a Trump appointee who allegedly worked with Giuliani to pressure Kiev.

The Democrats have so far kept the testimonies secret as they seek to build a case for removing Trump from office.

“We are going to continue to fill the picture in and very shortly release the transcripts to the American people and then decide where do we go from there,” said Swalwell.

Democrat Mark Pocan told Wisconsin Public Radio that articles of impeachment could be drawn up by the end of the year.

“We know that this is going to move very expeditiously,” he said.

“We already have a motive, we have a crime, we have a confession and we have evidence.”

Sondland’s testimony could be the most explosive. Text messages released last month show him communicating with other diplomats and Giuliani to advance Trump’s demand for dirt on Biden.

US law forbids foreign interference in a US election, and seeking help from foreign sources.

Trump has admitted asking Zelensky to investigate Biden, but said it was part of his normal duties to investigate corruption.

Trump has accused Biden of trying to protect his son’s Ukraine business ties while serving as vice president, but no evidence of wrongdoing has been produced.

AFP

Trump Lashes Out At Democrats Over Impeachment Storm

US President Donald Trump unleashed furious attacks on the impeachment inquiry launched against him by Democrats, amid an intensifying standoff between the president and Congress.

Trump — accused of leaning on Ukraine’s president to dig up dirt on one of his main 2020 election rivals — resorted to coarse language in his broadsides against the investigation and his adversaries conducting it.

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,” Trump tweeted.

Adam Schiff, the impeachment probe’s Democratic point man in the House of Representatives, told reporters there is a “real sense of urgency” to press forward.

Trump has fought back in terms once inconceivable for a president, including his claim late Tuesday that this is “not an impeachment, it is a COUP.”

He amplified the message Wednesday standing alongside Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in the White House, branding the impeachment process — announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week — as a “hoax.”

Trump assailed Schiff, declaring the House Intelligence Committee chairman “a low life” who should be arrested for “treason.”

But at the same time, Trump acknowledged he may yet cooperate with the latest move by Democrats, who threatened to subpoena the White House for documents related to the president’s efforts to get Ukraine to probe a political rival.

“We’ll work together with ‘shifty’ Schiff and Pelosi and all of them and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

Trump insists he did nothing wrong in a July phone call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky and on Wednesday 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 in Washington.

‘Not fooling around’

A White House summary of the call showed Trump pressed Zelensky several times to open a corruption investigation against leading Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and son Hunter, who did business in Ukraine when his father was vice president.

Neither Biden has been credibly accused of any wrongdoing.

“Biden and his son are stone-cold crooked,” Trump said Wednesday.

Trump is alleged to have suggested that US military aid 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 authorities with concerns about the 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.

Schiff on Wednesday called Trump’s comments about the whistleblower a “blatant effort to intimidate witnesses.”

He also warned Trump and the White House to treat the pending subpoena with the utmost gravity.

“We’re not fooling around here,” Schiff said, adding that efforts to stonewall the collection of related data would be considered “evidence of obstruction of justice.”

Meanwhile, the State Department’s independent watchdog met with a bipartisan group of staffers from House and Senate committees to discuss new wrinkles in the scandal.

Inspector General Steve Linick showed staff, and some lawmakers who attended, documents sent mysteriously to State that included a rehash of conspiracy theories that appeared aimed at discrediting Trump’s opponents.

“The briefing and documents raise troubling questions about apparent efforts inside and outside the Trump administration to target specific officials, including former vice president Joe Biden’s son and then-US ambassador to Ukraine Masha Yovanovitch,” the chairs of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees said in a joint statement.

Yovanovitch “was abruptly removed as ambassador in May after a sustained campaign against her by the President’s agent, Rudy Giuliani,” the statement said, referring to Trump’s personal lawyer.

The State Department is closely caught up in the probe, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirming that he listened in during the Zelensky call.

First testimony

Pompeo and 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 State and the 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.

The State Department’s former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, will testify Thursday and the ex-ambassador to Kiev, Marie Yovanovitch, appears behind closed doors on October 11, according to Schiff.

Volker was sought by Giuliani to help pressure Zelensky, while Yovanovitch was removed earlier this year as ambassador after she reportedly resisted that effort.

AFP

Trump Accuses Democrats Of Wasting Time With Impeachment ‘Bullshit’

 

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.

Impeachment Probe: Pompeo Accuses Democrats Of Bullying

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the press at the State Department in Washington, DC on September 13, 2019. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday accused Democrats of intimidation in their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and refused to let State Department employees comply with orders to appear in coming days.

In a letter to Congress, Pompeo said the subpoenas “can only be understood as an attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State.”

Citing “profound procedural and legal deficiencies” in the subpoenas, Pompeo said that depositions of five officials or former officials ordered to begin Wednesday “are not feasible,” without saying if they would appear on different dates.

AFP

Trump Denounces Impeachment Inquiry As ‘Witch Hunt Garbage’

US President Donald Trump attends a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (not shown) at UN Headquarters in New York, September 24, 2019, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. PHOTO: SAUL LOEB / AFP

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday denounced the launch of an impeachment inquiry into him as “Witch Hunt garbage.

“Such an important day at the United Nations, so much work and so much success, and the Democrats purposely had to ruin and demean it with more breaking news Witch Hunt garbage,” Trump tweeted.

Just moments earlier, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the US House of Representatives would launch the inquiry, the first step in a complex process that could ultimately lead to the president’s removal from office.

‘We Will Not Be Silenced’: US Congresswomen Targeted By Trump Politics

 

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.”

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), speaks while Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) listen during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 15, 2019 in Washington, DC.  AFP.

‘Destructive’

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.”

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) pauses while speaking as Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) react during a press conference at the U.S. AFP

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.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks as Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) listen during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. AFP

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.

AFP