WASHINGTON – House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee drafted a report to counter Democratic arguments for the impeachment of President Donald Trump for his dealings with Ukraine.
Democrats who control the panel built a case during weeks of closed-door depositions and then two weeks of public hearings that Trump pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his rival in the 2020 election, former Vice President Joe Biden.
But Republicans, led by Rep. Devin Nunes of California, wrote in a 123-page draft report that the evidence doesn’t support accusations of pressure or that Trump tried to cover up his conversation with Zelensky. Trump released a summary of the July 25 call on Sept. 25 and has argued that he was justified in encouraging an investigation because of widespread corruption in Ukraine.
“The evidence presented does not prove any of these Democrat allegations, and none of the Democrats’ witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor,” the draft Republican report said. “The fundamental disagreement apparent in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is a difference of world views and a discomfort with President Trump’s policy decisions.”
Republicans argued that Trump had a genuine and “reasonable skepticism” of Ukraine due to history of corruption and his concerns about Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, were “valid” because the Obama administration also noted “concerns” about the vice president’s son’s relationship with Burisma.
The report noted that Trump has a right to block witnesses and documents from being provided because the inquiry has been “an unfair, abusive, and partisan process, and does not constitute obstruction of a legitimate impeachment inquiry.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, listens as ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes of Calif., speaks. (Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)
The Intelligence Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday to vote on its report, which will be provided to the Judiciary Committee, to draft potential articles of impeachment. The Republican minority report aims to counter the majority report.
The Judiciary Committee meets Wednesday for the first of its public hearings, dealing with the constitutional background for impeachment.
The Intelligence Committee’s public hearings featured witnesses from the State Department and national security officials describing the president as urging an investigation of the Bidens, first as a condition for a meeting between Trump and Zelensky and then to release nearly $400 million in security aid.
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified that the investigation was a “quid pro quo” for a meeting. He told Ukraine officials Sept. 1 that he presumed that military aid wouldn’t be released until Ukraine announced an investigation.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the testimony described Trump’s abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in ways that he said were worse than former President Richard Nixon.
But Republicans said no witnesses heard Trump directly demanding an investigation in exchange for the military aid. Trump met with Zelensky and released the aid without any announced investigation.
“The Democrats are alleging guilt on the basis of hearsay, presumptions, and speculation—all of which are reflected in the anonymous whistleblower complaint that sparked this inquiry,” the draft Republican report said. “The Democrats’ narrative is so dependent on speculation that one Democrat publicly justified hearsay as ‘better’ than direct evidence.”
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