The House Intelligence Committee has released a substantial report on the investigation into Trump’s actions with Ukraine that we have watched unfold for the last two months. This report will provide a critical factual basis and help to inform the charges against the president in the impending articles of impeachment. The report concludes that Trump endangered national security, undermined the presidential election process and put his “personal and political interests” above those of the nation. The overall intent of the report is to appeal to a sense of duty — to make a claim not only about the incidents of wrongdoing, but the importance of protecting American Democracy. It presents facts that paint an overall picture of a President who is consumed with abusing his power.
The report focuses heavily on obstruction that goes well beyond Trump’s attempts at pressuring President Zelensky. The details of the President’s efforts to obstruct lawmakers at every turn is also explained, including blocking access to witnesses, withholding critical documents and testimony that may have been coerced. The report confirms that a dozen current or former administration officials refused to comply with investigators and that ten officials refused Congressional subpoenas entirely. Schiff also describes the various agency arms of the White House, such as the Office of Management and Budget, the State Department, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, and how each refused to produce any of the requested and subpoenaed documents to the Intelligence Committee.
Robert Mueller is mentioned often in both the report and in the footnotes and there is a discussion about the fact that the July 25 Ukraine phone call between Trump and Zelensky came the day after the special counsel testified to the House about what Mueller found in his investigation into Russian election meddling. A reference is made to Mueller’s assessment that Giuliani attempted to undercut the special counsel probe by pushing the conspiracy theory that Ukraine had been responsible for the 2016 election interference and not Russia. This is the same narrative that prominent Republican opposition continues to push in the media every day in an attempt to defend Trump’s actions with Ukraine.
“With this backdrop, the solicitation of new foreign intervention was the act of a president unbound, not one chastened by experience. It was the act of a president who viewed himself as unaccountable and determined to use his vast official powers to secure his reelection.” — House Intelligence Committee Impeachment Report, page 10
Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the Intel Report is that one of the committee’s own ranking members played a major role in the actual investigation — from the perpetrator side. Phone records that were obtained by investigators show that Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) spoke four times to Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani earlier this year. These phone calls sync up to the time when Giuliani was knee-deep in his attack campaign against former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Nunes was arranging his trip to Ukraine, in which he allegedly spent $60,000 of taxpayer money, to further pursue the knowingly false Ukrainian conspiracy and help the President dig up dirt on a political opponent.
The records also show that Nunes spoke to Giuliani’s recently-indicted associate Lev Parnas in April. Lev Parnas’ lawyer has claimed he was explicitly “on a mission” and tasked by Trump to investigate the Bidens’ activities in Ukraine. Records from the report also show that former Nunes staffer Kash Patel also spoke with Giuliani for 25 minutes on May 10. This was soon after Giuliani briefed former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker on his upcoming trip to Ukraine, according to House Intel records.
It is also interesting that both Nunes and Patel are suing every media outlet who have published allegations of their participation in Trump’s Ukrainian scandal, especially given the confirmation of their involvement by the House Intel report. Devin Nunes’ own committee has just provided more proof to anyone defending a defamation claim against Nunes. Nunes has yet to recuse himself from the committee’s investigation in which he is now a known key player.
Another critical aspect of the report is the analysis of Trump’s attempts to intimidate witnesses and the criminal implications that may have. The report cites four specific instances when Trump used his Twitter account to attack Congressional witnesses, including his attacks on the whistleblower, who was the subject to more than 100 public statements during a two-month period. Trump will not be prosecuted for any federal crimes while he’s in office thanks to Mueller’s legal conclusions and directives, but this could have criminal ramifications for Trump once he leaves office. The Democrats made a point to note in the report that a federal prison sentence for witness intimidation carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
There is also a discussion about Rudy Giuliani declining to represent former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, because he was too busy digging up dirt on Joe Biden for Donald Trump. The report goes further to detail how Lutsenko then hired Toensing and diGenova, the husband and wife team who are Trump loyalists. The report further connects the dots by denoting that these lawyers also represent John Solomon, the Hill journalist who continually writes take-down opinion pieces that mirror Giuliani’s talking points on the Bidens, Marie Yovanovitch and Ukraine.
The Intel Report also calls aspects of testimony from Ambassador Gordon Sondland into question, specifically his testimony about a Sept. 9 phone call in which Trump allegedly said he did not want a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine. The report concludes that this portion of his testimony is “at odds with the weight of the evidence and not backed up by any records the White House was willing to provide.” The White House has no record of the call and Sondland later revised his testimony to say he was not sure of the actual date this call took place. Based on the testimony of Taylor and Morrison, who discussed the call with Sondland, the committee has concluded that the call must have taken place on Sept. 7, but the lack of exactitude in Sondland’s initial testimony casts doubt on the entire exchange.
“Donald Trump is the first president in the history of the United States to seek to completely obstruct an impeachment inquiry undertaken by the House of Representatives under Article I of the Constitution…No other president has flouted the Constitution and power of Congress to conduct oversight to this extent…Even President Richard Nixon — who obstructed Congress by refusing to turn over key evidence — accepted the authority of Congress to conduct an impeachment inquiry and permitted his aides and advisors to produce documents and testify to Congressional committees.” — House Intelligence Committee Impeachment Report, page 27-28
The overall tone of the report is one of an urgent need for a history lesson refresher in the most critical time in our nation’s history. The report refers to more than 100 references to the Constitution and delves deeply into the intention of the founding fathers in constructing a government that specifically had a removal tool for tempering the power of a treacherous president. The theme chosen by the Intel Committee represents the best chance of appealing to members of the Senate who have lost their sense of patriotic duty. This focus on historical context with a description of broad allegations will also provide the Judiciary with as much leeway as possible to utilize every charge they find necessary. It is a stark reminder of the purpose of our government that has been lost by half of the country for over two years — a reminder of who we are supposed to stand up to and what we are supposed to stand up for.
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Amee Vanderpool writes the “Shero” Newsletter and is an attorney, contributor to Playboy Magazine, analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.