04/12/2019 7:37 AM AEDT

Democrats Impeachment Report Lays Out 'Overwhelming' Evidence Of Misconduct By Trump

The committee is now passing the Trump impeachment proceedings to the House Judiciary Committee.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee laid out “overwhelming” evidence of misconduct by President Donald Trump in a detailed report released Tuesday, marking the next stage in the impeachment inquiry against the president. 

The committee plans to vote on approval of the report Tuesday evening. By doing so, it will formally pass the impeachment proceedings to the House Judiciary Committee, which will begin its own set of impeachment hearings Wednesday.

The report comes after several marathon days of hearings in November, featuring testimony from current and former U.S. officials familiar with the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the events surrounding it, which are at the center of the inquiry.

During the call, Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, whose son had business dealings in the country while Biden was vice president. The president also pushed the roundly debunked claim that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election. 

The Intelligence Committee report states that “the call record alone is stark evidence of misconduct; a demonstration of the President’s prioritization of his personal political benefit over the national interest.” But it also details other allegations of improper conduct by the president, his administration and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to influence Ukraine,calling it “a dramatic crescendo within a months-long campaign ... to extract from a foreign nation the personal political benefits sought by the President.”

Intelligence Committee Democrats write in the report that they’re not out to “overturn an election,” as Republicans have claimed for weeks. Instead, they write that the authors of the U.S. Constitution gave Congress impeachment powers specifically “as a remedy of last resort for a president who fails to faithfully execute his oath of office ‘to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’”

The report also details efforts by Trump to thwart Congress’ investigation, calling it “an unprecedented campaign of obstruction by the President and his Administration to prevent the Committees from obtaining documentary evidence and testimony.” A dozen witnesses refused to testify, including some who were subpoenaed, and multiple agencies and the White House itself declined to turn over relevant documents.

Trump also sought to intimidate witnesses who did agree to come forward, the report alleges, noting that it is “a federal crime to intimidate or seek to intimidate any witness appearing before Congress.” The president did so by publicly attacking multiple witnesses as well as an anonymous whistleblower who expressed concerns about his call with Zelensky.

“If left unanswered, President Trump’s ongoing effort to thwart Congress’ impeachment power risks doing grave harm to the institution of Congress, the balance of power between our branches of government, and the Constitutional order that the President and every Member of Congress have sworn to protect and defend,” the report states.

Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong; he has said repeatedly that his call with Zelensky was “perfect.” Soon after the Democrats released their report, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham dismissed it as part of “a one-sided sham process” and claimed lawmakers “utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump.”

“Chairman Schiff’s report reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing,” Grisham said in a statement, referring to Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

Giuliani has similarly denied any wrongdoing, including after Democrats released their report, which included phone records showing his conversations with the Office of Management and Budget ― the agency involved in delaying aid for Ukraine.

“I did not have any knowledge of aid that’s it,” he said in a text message to HuffPost. “None. Zero and no one has claimed I did. Otherwise I don’t comment on discussions with WH.”

Trump’s Republican allies on Capitol Hill have largely agreed with his claims that the inquiry is unfair. And Republicans have said the slew of witnesses testifying about what happened between the U.S. and Ukraine are simply mistaken about Trump’s motives. Trump wasn’t out for dirt on his political rival, Republicans argued in their own report this week. Rather, the president withheld assistance from Ukraine because of his “long-standing, deep-seated skepticism of Ukraine due to its history of pervasive corruption.”

Republican lawmakers have struggled to point to other examples of Trump attacking corruption, despite his “drain the swamp” campaign slogan. 

As Democrats note in their report, according to the White House memorandum of the call with Zelenesky, “President Trump did not mention corruption at all.”

Read the report below:

This article has been updated with more details from the report. S.V. Dáte, Paul Blumenthal contributed reporting.

CORRECTION: This article previously stated the House Intelligence Committee had held a vote to approve the report. The committee released the report publicly before its vote Tuesday evening.