WASHINGTON — Donald Trump abused the power of the presidency for his personal benefit when he and his cronies shook down the government of Ukraine by withholding a White House meeting and $391 million in foreign aid unless Ukraine said they’d investigate Trump’s rivals. After this quid pro quo scheme was revealed, the president engaged in a “sweeping effort to stonewall” the House’s investigation into his actions.
Those are the central findings of a 300-page report released Tuesday by the House Intelligence Committee, produced by the committee’s Democratic majority with help from the Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees. The report details a “months-long” campaign, “driven” by Trump and abetted by officials at the highest levels of his administration —”including the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Acting Chief of Staff, the Secretary of Energy, and others” — to “extract from a foreign nation the personal political benefits sought by the President.”
“The evidence of the president’s misconduct is overwhelming, and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress,” the report says.
The report doesn’t go so far as to accuse the president of committing specific crimes such as bribery, extortion, or violating the Impoundment Control Act, the law requiring the president to spend money that was appropriated by Congress. Instead, the report reads like a road map for the House of Representatives as it considers whether to draft articles of impeachment against Trump. The Intel Committee will vote to approve the report as early as Tuesday evening and then send its findings to the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the impeachment process.
Not surprisingly, the Democrats’ findings are the mirror opposite of the Republicans on the Intel committee. On Monday, those Republicans released their own report that concluded, despite all evidence to the contrary, the president and his administration did not a single thing wrong.
The report recounts in great detail much of what the public already read and heard from the dozen witnesses who, over the administration’s objections, agreed to testify in the House’s impeachment investigation. It also outlines — in a striking parallel to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report — all the ways Trump and his administration sought to derail the effort to gather all the facts and testimonies of those involving the Trump-Ukraine scheme.
As the report notes, the White House, State Department, Energy Department, Pentagon, and the Office of Management and Budget all refused to produce a single document in response to subpoenas issued by the House Intel Committee. Indeed, the report claims Trump is the first president in history to “seek to completely obstruct an impeachment inquiry” by the House.
The report links Trump’s embrace of Russian interference in the 2016 election to his solicitation of Ukrainian meddling heading into 2020: “The solicitation of new foreign intervention was the act of a president unbound,” it reads, “not one chastened by experience.” The report goes on to say the committee chose not to wait for ongoing lawsuits to play out in its effort to obtain more evidence from potential witnesses.
“Given the proximate threat of further presidential attempts to solicit foreign interference in our next election, we cannot wait to make a referral until our efforts to obtain additional testimony and documents wind their way through the courts,” the report states. “The evidence of the President’s misconduct is overwhelming, and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a stronger or more complete case of obstruction than that demonstrated by the President since the inquiry began.”
The committee’s Democrats argue in their report that both Trump’s abuses of power as well as his blithe obstruction of the House’s investigation have already done damage to national security, the rule of law and the country’s system of checks and balances. Failing to hold the president accountable, they say, would give a green light to future presidents of any party to follow in Trump’s footsteps.
“Any future president will feel empowered to resist an investigation into their own wrongdoing, malfeasance, or corruption,” the report says, “and the result will be a nation at far greater risk of all three.”