Pelosi Tells Trump Not to Make Impeachment Inquiry Any Worse

Mark Niquette and Billy House

(Bloomberg) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is telling the White House to be honest and cooperate with an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, saying “don’t make this any worse than it already is.”

“Speak the truth. Honor your oath of office to the Constitution of the United States,” Pelosi said in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday when asked what her message is to the White House. “And let us work together to have this be a unifying experience, not a dividing one for our country.”

Sunday evening, Trump tweeted that he wants “to meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION, but also the person who illegally gave this information.”

The whistle-blower who filed a complaint that sparked the inquiry is under federal protection out of fear for his or her safety, CBS said, citing a letter it obtained. The news program also said the whistle-blower’s lawyers sent a letter to Joseph Maguire, the acting Director of National Intelligence, thanking him for activating “appropriate resources” to ensure their client’s safety -- and saying that “certain individuals” are offering a $50,000 bounty for their client’s identity.

Mark Zaid, an attorney for the whistle-blower, said on Twitter that CBS “completely misrepresented contents of our letter” but didn’t say how. He posted a copy of the letter online, and said discussions remain ongoing for the whistleblower to testify to Congress while ensuring protections to keep the person’s identity confidential. 60 Minutes, in a subsequent tweet, said it stands by its sources and reporting.

‘Nancy Drew Novel’

Trump has disparaged the whistle-blower and suggested that anyone who provided information is “close to a spy” and perhaps guilty of treason.

“It’s hard to describe how dangerous and loathsome that invitation to violence is,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on “60 Minutes.”

Trump loyalists have taken up the cause too; senior White House adviser Stephen Miller on Sunday disparaged the whistle-blower’s complaint as a “seven-page little Nancy Drew novel,” a reference to the fictional teenage sleuth.

Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry of Trump last week after a series of damaging revelations, including that the president withheld military aid to Ukraine before asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate top Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden during a July phone call. Trump called Pelosi before she announced the impeachment inquiry to assure her the call had been “perfect,” she said.

‘All Speed’

Schiff, whose committee is leading the investigation into the Ukrainian matters, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that his panel has an agreement with the whistle-blower to testify and expects that to happen “very soon,” depending on how quickly the security-clearance process for his or her lawyers can be completed. Zaid said on Twitter that no agreement has been reached with Congress “on contact with the whistle-blower” and discussions “remain ongoing.”

The California Democrat has promised that Democrats will be “moving forward with all speed” on the impeachment inquiry, even with Congress on a two-week recess. He said on “60 Minutes” that the committee intends to subpoena Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani for documents this week and may want him to testify.

Giuliani initially said on ABC he wouldn’t cooperate with Schiff’s investigation, then said he would consider it -- and if Trump wants him to testify, “of course I’ll testify.”

Trump’s allies argue that the president did nothing wrong, and that Democrats are moving to impeach Trump because they can’t defeat him for re-election in 2020.

“Why would we move forward with impeachment?” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said on “60 Minutes.” “There’s not something that you have to defend here.”

At one point, McCarthy incorrectly told CBS’S Scott Pelley that he added a word when recounting Trump’s comment to Zelenskiy in the call transcript, “I would like you to do us a favor, though.

“He said, ‘I’d like you to do a favor though?’” McCarthy asked. “Yes, it’s in the White House transcript,” Pelley replied.

The full sentence to which Pelley was referring is a quote from Trump on page 3 of the transcript released by the White House. It reads as follows: “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.“

Pivotal Interviews

The interviews with McCarthy, Schiff and Pelosi were conducted in Washington on Friday.

Pelosi has said the impeachment process “should move with purpose and expeditiously” but hasn’t laid out any mileposts or a specific timetable. Democratic leaders are hoping to send articles of impeachment to the full House by December, according to officials familiar with the matter.

Members of the House Intelligence Committee, and two other committees, have scheduled early and potentially pivotal closed-door interviews this week with past and present administration officials. Most other rank-and-file members will be away from Washington for a two-week district work period through Oct. 15.

In addition, three House committee have given Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, in a subpoena, until Thursday to turn over documents they’ve sought since early this month.

Closed-Door Briefings

Among the documents demanded by the committees are those related to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy, a list of State Department officials who participated in or got a readout of the call, all records referring to Giuliani, and the information about the suspension of U.S. aid to Ukraine.

Kurt Volker, Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine who stepped down last week, is scheduled for a deposition on Thursday, according to Representative Eliot Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Schiff, and Elijah Cummings, chairman of Oversight & Reform.

On Friday, Michael Atkinson, the U.S. intelligence community’s inspector general, is expected to give a closed-door briefing to the Intelligence Committee. Atkinson is the official who told the committee on Sept. 9 of the existence of a whistle-blower complaint.

Depositions have been also scheduled this week for five State Department officials, including Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a State Department counselor cited in the whistle-blower complaint; George Kent, deputy assistant secretary; and Gordon Sondland, envoy to the European Union.

Rallying the Caucus

Schiff has said the committee is looking to identify still others mentioned in the whistle-blower complaint. That complaint states there were approximately a dozen White House officials who listened to Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president -- described as policy officials and duty officers.

Pelosi had a call with her Democratic caucus Sunday afternoon, according to anaide. She laid out the inquiry as being about the Constitution and patriotism -- and not political opposition to Trump or the 2020 election.

“We could not ignore what the president did,” Pelosi said on “60 Minutes.” “I always said we will follow the facts where they take us. And when we see them, we will be ready. And we are ready.”

(Updates with lawyer’s comment in fifth paragraph and McCarthy-Pelley exchange starting in 14th paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Niquette in Columbus at mniquette@bloomberg.net;Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net, ;Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny, Derek Wallbank

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