Democrats release Trump impeachment report
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, spoke to reporters this afternoon on Capitol Hill about Russian election interference and Ukraine's role.
Asked if he believed that Ukraine meddled in 2016 election, here's what he said:
“I don’t know. I do believe — I’ve got no doubt that it was the Russians who stole the DNC emails. It wasn’t the Ukraine. Russia was behind the stolen DNC emails and [John] Podesta and all that good stuff. There are articles about Ukrainian officials talking to Democratic officials — I don’t know if that’s true or not, I’ve had nobody in the intelligence community verify that. I’m hoping somebody’s looking at that. I just want to know, did it happen. You’ve got Politico article and a few others that suggest Democratic operatives met with Ukrainian officials. I don’t know if it’s true or not. But let somebody look, but when it comes to hacking into the DNC, that was all Russia. The Ukraine had nothing to do with it. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to think that Manafort had some enemies in the Ukraine. So as to the Ukraine, they had zero to do with the hacking of the DNC and the stealing of the emails. Whether or not people from the Ukraine met with DNC operatives, I don’t know. All I’ve seen is press reports that no one has validated.”
More on this: The theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 US election has been continuously debunked. Dr. Fiona Hill, the White House's former Russia adviser, called the idea that Ukraine — and not Russia — meddled a "fictional narrative" in her impeachment inquiry testimony.
Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee have sent a letter to Chair Jerry Nadler ahead of tomorrow’s impeachment inquiry hearing, criticizing the Democrats’ "obsession with impeaching the President and undoing the 2016 election."
GOP members wrote that as the committee begins “consideration of the so-called 'impeachment inquiry' against President Donald J. Trump, we write to remind you of our recent letters demanding that this Committee provide the due process the Intelligence Committee, and Chairman Adam Schiff, did not.”
The letter goes on to say that under Nadler’s leadership, “bipartisan solutions to real problems affecting real Americans have been sacrificed in favor of Committee Democrats’ obsession with impeaching the President and undoing the 2016 election.”
The Justice Department — which is handling a public records court case for the State Department — told a court today that it will give an update next week about some Ukraine-related Freedom of Information Act searches for documents.
The update, which will come on Monday, will include when the State Department did document searches, which could shed light on why the administration hasn’t made public any readouts of the July 25 Ukraine call from Secretary Mike Pompeo’s files.
This question — why State hasn’t made summaries of the call public following a court’s order — came up in a court hearing today about a public records case from the transparency group American Oversight.
The group has already gotten some documents from the State Department through its lawsuit. But the group still hasn’t gotten any formal readouts or summaries of the Trump-Zelensky call, which a federal judge had ordered they should have.
What the group wants: American Oversight is still seeking in its lawsuit access to informal notes of the July call and answers about the department’s searches for the records it has requested.
The group is also awaiting answers about the State Department’s searches for records of Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker communications about Rudy Giuliani, and records of a Giuliani-Pompeo contact in August. Some of the State Department records searches may have happened in early August, before that supposed Giuliani communication took place.
“Please ask the department to address the search for readouts” of the July 25 call in its Monday update, Judge Casey Cooper told the Justice Department in court today. He noted it would be unusual if no records of the call existed in the State Department.
Democratic Rep. Denny Heck, a member of House Intelligence Committee, was asked if there’s a risk of the scope of the articles of impeachment going broader than Ukraine to include episodes detailed in former special counsel Robert Mueller's report.
“I tell you what, there's a risk of: there's a risk of us not respecting our Constitution, there's a risk of us pretending that he didn't do something wrong, there's a risk in us, continuing to propagate these debunked conspiracy theories about Ukraine involvement in the 2016 election. That's the risk," Heck told reporters.
What we know: The House Intelligence Committee is expected to release its impeachment report publicly this evening. It will serve as the backbone of the Democrats’ impeachment proceedings against the President. The committee will vote to approve the report this evening and to send it to the House Judiciary Committee, where it is expected to serve as the basis of articles of impeachment that would be drafted by that panel in the coming days.
The Democratic report on the Ukraine investigation will detail how President Trump sought political gain through his dealings with Ukraine, while laying out the historical precedent for impeaching a president, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.
The report from the House Intelligence Committee makes Democrats’ case for impeachment, weaving a narrative about Trump’s handling of Ukraine, including with exhibits and phone logs, the sources said. The report will also compare Trump’s lack of cooperation with Congress with the cooperation in past administrations to argue that this President has engaged in unprecedented stonewalling.
The committee’s report, which is expected to be released publicly this evening, will serve as the backbone of the Democrats’ impeachment proceedings against the President. The committee will vote to approve the report this evening and to send it to the House Judiciary Committee, where it is expected to serve as the basis of articles of impeachment that would be drafted by that panel in the coming days.
Republicans on Monday released their report ahead of the Democrats that fully defended the President’s actions on Ukraine, accusing Democrats of rushing to impeach the President without any evidence that Trump did anything wrong.
The Democratic report is based largely on the 17 witness interviews that were conducted over the past several months, including 12 at two weeks of public hearings, with testimony that detailed a lengthy effort spearheaded by the President’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to oust the US ambassador to Ukraine and then push Kiev to announce investigations into the President’s political rivals.
The report’s findings on both Ukraine and obstruction of Congress are expected to be included in the articles of impeachment.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Monday that the report “outlines in considerable detail a scheme that began actually well before the recall of Ambassador (Marie) Yovanovitch, and was designed to further two political objectives of the President which is an investigation into Joe Biden and an investigation into this debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine that interfered in the last election, not Russia — notwithstanding all of our intelligence agencies concluding it was Russia, notwithstanding the fact that it's actually Putin's narrative that Ukraine did it, not us.”
Schiff added: “The President believed obviously this would help his reelection campaign, and he was willing to use the full force of his office to leverage Ukraine to do these sham investigations.”
The vote on the intelligence committee's report signals a shift in the impeachment process from that committee to the House Judiciary Committee. The judiciary panel, chaired by Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, is holding its first impeachment hearing tomorrow with legal experts.
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale reiterated in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and that he is not aware of any evidence that Ukraine interfered in the election.
He also said Russia is trying to interfere in the 2020 elections.
Here was his exchange with Democratic Senator Bob Menendez:
MENENDEZ: Secretary Hale, did Russia interfere in the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump? Could you put your microphone on please?
HALE: Yes the intelligence community assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at our presidential election.
MENENDEZ: Was the Kremlin’s interference in our 2016 election a hoax?
MENENDEZ: Are you aware of any evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 US election?
HALE: I’m not.
More context: Hale testified earlier this month before the House Intel committee in a public impeachment hearing. Hale and other witnesses testified that they were not aware of any evidence that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Still, Republican allies of President Trump continue to push unfounded conspiracy theories suggesting Ukraine interfered in the election.
President Trump, speaking on the sidelines of the NATO summit, attacked House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, calling the Democrat a "deranged," "sick" and a "maniac."
Trump was asked about Schiff at the news conference in London.
"I think he's a maniac," Trump said. "I think Adam Schiff is a deranged human being. I think he grew up with a complex for lots of reasons that are obvious."
Trump continued to attack Schiff, claiming that he "made up" the President's conversation with Ukraine's leader — a call that's at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
"I think he's a very sick man. And he lies. Adam Schiff made up my conversation with the president of Ukraine," Trump said. "We have a perfectly beautiful three or four-page transcription and in the other case a two-page transcription of the conversation."
Trump continued: "This guy is sick. He made up the conversation. He lied. If he didn't do that in the halls of Congress, he'd be thrown in a jail."
Some background here: Trump has repeatedly claimed that Schiff "lied" about his call with Ukraine's president.
At a hearing in September, Schiff mentioned the Trump-Ukraine call, but said he would outline "the essence of what the President communicates," not read "the exact transcribed version of the call." You can read CNN's full fact check here.
President Trump, who is at the NATO summit in London, was asked why he won’t permit Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to testify.
"I would... but these are very unfair hearings."
He lamented the setup of tomorrow's hearing. He said he wants Joe and Hunter Biden and Adam Schiff to testify in the Senate. He called it a “total fix.”
"I just heard today they get three constitutional lawyers, all nonsense, just wasting their time. And we get one, OK. Now, nobody has to know anything about constitutional law but they get three and we get one. That's not sounding too good."
Remember: Trump and his White House counsel were invited by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler to participate in the committee's initial hearing Wednesday and declined the invitation.
President Trump was just asked about the ongoing impeachment inquiry — which he said is "going nowhere" — during a bilateral meeting at the NATO summit in London with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trump said the Republican party "has never been so unified as it is right now" and attributed the unity to the impeachment.
"The Republican party on this whole impeachment hoax has been like glue because they know it's a hoax. It's a way of hurting the Republican party. Beyond me. It's a way of trying to hurt the Republican party and a lot of great people and the people aren't standing for it," Trump said.
When asked how his meeting with former Clinton pollster Mark Penn went, Trump sidestepped the question, instead focusing on how he is "winning big" on impeachment.
"We are winning so big. We had our biggest fundraising month ever," Trump said adding, "I have my best poll numbers that I've ever had. The impeachment hoax is going nowhere."