The House Intelligence Committee has released its draft impeachment report, laying out in stark terms the Democrats’ case that Donald Trump abused his power for personal gain by withholding congressionally approved US military to Ukraine.
The case claims Mr Trump had hoped to compel the Ukrainian president to announce an investigation into his political rivals in the US.
The report, which formally hands over the investigation to the House Judiciary Committee, also accuses the White House of attempting to subvert the impeachment process. That effort ultimately failed after several high profile American diplomats and foreign service officials testified during marathon hearings in November.
“Despite President Trump’s unprecedented and categorical commands, the House gathered overwhelming evidence of his misconduct from courageous individuals who were willing to follow the law, comply with duly authorised subpoenas, and tell the truth. In response, the president engaged in a brazen effort to publicly attack and intimidate these witnesses.
The House Intelligence Committee’s report spans some 300 pages, and includes two main sections, including one detailing Mr Trump’s alleged abuse of power in Ukraine and another alleging obstruction. The full report can be read here.
“The impeachment inquiry uncovered overwhelming and uncontested evidence that President Trump abused the powers of his office to solicit foreign influence in our election for his own personal, political gain,” wrote intelligence chair Adam Schiff, after the report was released. “No one is above the law.”
In the document, which dropped as Mr Trump met Queen Elizabeth in Buckingham Palace on a trip to London for the annual Nato summit, the president is accused of withholding that security assistance in spite of attempts by Ukrainians to enquire about the money, which is seen as key to American interests and keeping Russian aggression at bay.
The document indicates that the effort to compel Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to initiate the investigations – which included an elaborate establishment of an unusual alternate diplomatic channel that bypassed normal state department procedure – began to unravel after a whistleblower complaint was filed, indicating unease with the way in which Mr Trump spoke to Mr Zelensky in a 25 July phone call.
The phone call allegation, the document claims, has been corroborated by witnesses who have testified before the committee, who in turn have told the House that the efforts were understood at the highest level of the Trump administration, including by acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, and secretary of energy Rick Perry. During impeachment testimony, EU ambassador Gordon Sondland also testified that it was well understood that Mr Trump was demanding a quid pro quo from Mr Zelensky, in spite of the president’s efforts to deny that message.
In the report, the Intelligence Committee also accuses Mr Trump and the White House of attempting to obstruct the congressional inquiry by, in part, instructing potential witnesses to ignore subpoenas for documents and testimony. Mr Trump and the White House obstructed the investigation in several ways, including by barring top aides from testifying, and by making the president unavailable to testify himself. Mr Trump also attempted to intimidate witnesses himself, the report alleges, including through tweets attacking witnesses with long and respected careers working for the US government.
Mr Trump was in London at the time of the report’s release, where he had earlier met French president Emmanuel Macron and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.
Mr Trump has offered his thoughts on the impeachment inquiry, branding it as a witch hunt. Asked about Mr Schiff, Mr Trump described him as a “sick man”.
“I think he’s a maniac – I think Adam Schiff is a deranged human being,” Mr Trump said. “I think he grew up with a complex for lots of reasons that are obvious. I think he’s a very sick man. And he lies.”
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to hold its first impeachment hearings on Wednesday, when constitutional scholars are expected to be quizzed on the merits of the impeachment case against the president.
Democrats currently control a sizeable majority in the House, making Mr Trump’s eventual impeachment very likely, with some theorising that articles of impeachment could be voted on before Christmas. But it remains unlikely that he will be removed from office by the Senate, which will ultimately judge the president.