WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers on Monday night got their first look at the House Intelligence Committee's report in the impeachment investigation against President Donald Trump. The document will focus on whether Trump abused his office by withholding military aid approved by Congress as he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch investigations into Trump's political rivals.
Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Monday on MSNBC that the report will be released today. The panel is scheduled to vote today on approving the report, which would make way for its public release.
The House Judiciary Committee is set to hold its first hearing in the proceedings Wednesday.
Departing Monday for a NATO meeting in London, Trump criticized the House for pushing forward with proceedings while he was overseas. Trump accused the Democrats of scheduling this week's hearing to undercut him during his trip abroad.
Before departing Washington, Trump called the trip "one of the most important journeys that we make as president," and he noted that Democrats had long known about the meeting.
He predicted Republicans would actually benefit from the impeachment effort against him, though he called the investigation "a disgrace for our country."
At issue in the impeachment inquiry is Trump's July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy, during which Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart for the investigations. At the time, Trump was withholding $400 million in military aid amid Ukraine's long-running conflict with Russia.
The next step comes Wednesday when the Judiciary Committee gavels open its hearing with legal experts to assess the Intelligence Committee's findings and consider potential articles of impeachment.
The Democratic majority on the Intelligence Committee said the report, compiled after weeks of testimony from current or former diplomats and administration officials, will speak for itself in laying out the president's actions toward Ukraine.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, viewed the report Monday evening when it became available for members of the intelligence panel. He said it was "long."Gallery: President Trump speaks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House
Jordan declined to discuss details, but he said it's the same "lame case" that Democrats have presented throughout the impeachment hearings.
"The president did nothing wrong," Jordan said. "The facts are on our side."
Trump on Monday pointed to recent comments from Zelenskiy as proof that there was no wrongdoing. The Ukrainian president said in an interview with Time that he never talked to Trump "from the position of a quid pro quo."
Zelenskiy was asked whether there was a connection between Trump's decision to block military assistance and the two investigations he asked Zelenskiy to open. One was on allegations of meddling by Ukraine in the 2016 election, and the other was about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
"Look, I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo," Zelenskiy said. "But you have to understand. We're at war. If you're our strategic partner, then you can't go blocking anything for us. I think that's just about fairness. It's not about a quid pro quo."
Trump told reporters as he departed Monday for London that Zelenskiy's comments should be "case closed," mischaracterizing the interview by saying that Zelenskiy had said "very strongly that President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong."
Zelenskiy also said that when leaders like Trump call his country corrupt, it sends a concerning message.
"Everyone hears that signal," he said. "Investments, banks, stakeholders, companies, American, European, companies that have international capital in Ukraine, it's a signal to them that says, 'Be careful, don't invest.' Or, 'Get out of there.'"
Meanwhile, Republicans attempted to pre-empt public release of the Intelligence Committee's report by circulating their own 123-page assessment.
In it, they said there's no evidence Trump pressured Zelenskiy, arguing that Democrats just want to undo the 2016 election. The Republicans dismissed witness testimony of a shadow diplomacy being run by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and they relied on the president's insistence that he was merely concerned about "corruption" in Ukraine -- though the White House transcript of Trump's phone call with Zelenskiy never mentions the word.
"They are trying to impeach President Trump because some unelected bureaucrats chafed at an elected President's 'outside the beltway' approach to diplomacy," according to the report from Republican Reps. Jordan, Devin Nunes of California and Michael McCaul of Texas.
In the document, Republicans argue that after two months of investigation, the evidence "does not support" that Trump withheld a coveted White House meeting for Ukraine's president or the nearly $400 million in security assistance for the country as leverage for securing the investigations, according to a copy reviewed by The New York Times before its planned release today.
"The Democrats' impeachment inquiry is not the organic outgrowth of serious misconduct; it is an orchestrated campaign to upend our political system," the Republicans wrote.
Soon after arriving in the U.K. for the NATO gathering, Trump said on Twitter that he had read the Republican report.
"Prior to landing I read the Republicans Report on the Impeachment Hoax. Great job! Radical Left has NO CASE. Read the Transcripts," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Shouldn't even be allowed. Can we go to Supreme Court to stop?"
It was not immediately clear under what legal grounds Trump was calling for the high court's involvement.
Schiff said the Republican response was intended for an audience of one, Trump, whose actions are "outside the law and Constitution."
The argument in the Republican report mirrored one made at the White House on Monday by Kellyanne Conway, Trump's counselor.
"One out of 12 people had ever talked to the president of the United States and met him or discussed Ukraine with him -- that is just mind-boggling to me," Conway said, referring to the number of current or former government officials who testified publicly in the inquiry. "And we are supposed to impeach the president for high crimes and misdemeanors for that reason?"
Conway also dared Schiff to testify publicly before the Judiciary Committee about his handling of the case. She promised that if he did, she would "show up on behalf of the White House," which on Sunday declined to participate in the hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone denounced the proceedings as a "baseless and highly partisan inquiry" in a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
Trump had previously suggested that he might be willing to offer written testimony under certain conditions, though aides suggested they did not anticipate Democrats would ever agree to them.
Cipollone's letter of nonparticipation applied only to the Wednesday hearing, and he demanded more information from Democrats on how they intended to conduct further hearings before Trump would decide whether to participate.
Nadler said Monday that if the president really thought his call with Ukraine was "perfect," as he repeatedly has said, then he would "provide exculpatory information that refutes the overwhelming evidence of his abuse of power."
House rules provide the president and his attorneys the right to cross-examine witnesses and review evidence before the committee, but little ability to bring forward witnesses of their own.
The Judiciary Committee on Monday unveiled the panel of constitutional scholars its members would question Wednesday. The witnesses are Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School, Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School, Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina Law School and Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School.
Information for this article was contributed by Lisa Mascaro, Mary Clare Jalonick, Zeke Miller, Jill Colvin, Aamer Madhani, Kevin Freking, Darlene Superville, Bill Barrow, Hope Yen and staff members of The Associated Press; by Felicia Sonmez, John Wagner and Brittany Shammas of The Washington Post; and by Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times.
A Section on 12/03/2019
Print Headline: Investigation report viewed by lawmakers; Trump criticizes timing of hearing on impeachment