Democrats say Trump abused power to boost re-election bid

US President Donald Trump solicited foreign interference to boost his chances of re-election next year, undermined national security and ordered an “unprecedented” campaign to obstruct Congress, Democrats said in a report yesterday that will form the basis of any formal impeachment charges against him.

In a 300-page report that alleged sweeping abuse of power, the Democratic-led House of Representatives Intelligence Committee said Mr Trump used US military aid and the prospect of a White House visit to pressure his Ukrainian counterpart to undertake probes that would benefit Mr Trump politically.

Mr Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

The Republican president “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the US presidential election process, and endangered US national security”, the report said.

Democrats, who began the formal impeachment inquiry in September, also accused Mr Trump of an “unprecedented” effort to obstruct the investigation, including refusing to provide documents and testimony from his top advisers, unsuccessful attempts to block career government officials from testifying and intimidation of witnesses.

“The evidence of the president‘s misconduct is overwhelming, and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress,” it said.

In a news conference following the release of the report, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff described Mr Trump as a “president who believes that he is beyond indictment, beyond impeachment, beyond any form of accountability and indeed above the law”.

Mr Trump, who is in London for a Nato summit, accused Democrats of using the impeachment process to overturn the results of the 2016 presidential election. Opinion polls show Americans are bitterly divided over whether to impeach Mr Trump.

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said House Democrats had conducted a “one-sided sham process” that had failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by Mr Trump.

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“This report reflects nothing more than their frustrations. Chairman Schiff‘s report reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing,” Ms Grisham said in a statement.

The heart of the impeachment probe is whether Mr Trump misused the power of his office to compel Ukraine to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Mr Trump in the 2020 election.

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Politicians and the public have heard testimony from current and former officials that military aid was withheld from Ukraine and that a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was conditioned on Kiev conducting the probe, as well as one into a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US election.

The House Intelligence Committee was scheduled to meet late last night to vote on its findings.

The matter will then go to the House Judiciary Committee, which will open its proceedings today.

If the full House eventually votes to approve formal impeachment charges, a trial would be held in the Republican-led US Senate, where a two-thirds majority of those present would be required to convict Mr Trump and remove him from office.

Much of the report drew on the public testimony of current and former government officials, who have described in televised hearings a months-long effort to pressure Ukraine to carry out the investigations sought by Mr Trump. But it also suggested that wrongdoing within the executive branch extended beyond Mr Trump.

The report said many of Mr Trump‘s “closest subordinates and advisers”, including White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, had knowledge of, and in some cases facilitated and furthered Mr Trump‘s efforts and withheld information.

In London, Mr Trump complained Democrats had conducted unfair “witch hunt” hearings.

Irish Independent

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