WASHINGTON -- The House Intelligence Committee released a report Tuesday that said President Donald Trump placed his political interests above national interests in his conduct toward Ukraine.

In a report released Tuesday afternoon, the House Intelligence Committee said Trump had "compromised national security to advance his personal political interests" in his dealings with Ukraine.

The committee also found that Trump "engaged in an unprecedented campaign of obstruction of this impeachment inquiry."

Democrats are seeking to build a case that Trump leveraged military assistance and an Oval Office meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in exchange for investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden and a debunked theory alleging Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

The committee will vote Tuesday on forwarding the report to the House Judiciary Committee, which will consider articles of impeachment against Trump.

"To compel the Ukrainian President to do his political bidding, President Trump conditioned two official acts on the public announcement of the investigations: a coveted White House visit and critical U.S. military assistance Ukraine needed to fight its Russian adversary," the report said in its findings.

Trump on Tuesday called Democrats "very unpatriotic" for pursuing his impeachment while he is overseas meeting with other NATO leaders. He dismissed the possibility of a congressional censure as an alternative to removal from office.

His latest comments on the impeachment inquiry came during a one-on-one meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, when Trump fielded questions from reporters for nearly an hour.

Asked if impeachment proceedings cast a cloud over his negotiations at the NATO summit, Trump lashed out at Democrats.

"I think it's very unpatriotic for the Democrats to put on a performance where they do that," he said. "I do. I think it's a bad thing for our country. Impeachment wasn't supposed to be used that way. . . . Does it cast a cloud? Well, if it does, then the Democrats have done a very great disservice to the country, which they have. They've wasted a lot of time."

Trump also dismissed an idea that has been floated in Congress of censuring him for his conduct toward Ukraine rather than impeaching him.

"I heard about it," Trump said. "Now they want to go to censure because they have no case for impeachment. So they want to go to censure. I don't want them to go to censure. . . . I don't mind being censured if you do something wrong. I did nothing wrong.

RELATED:

The Judiciary Committee has scheduled its first hearing in the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday morning. Four law professors - three chosen by Democrats and one by Republicans - are slated to testify on the "constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment."

The three chosen by Democrats: Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, Stanford University professor Pamela Karlan and University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt. The one invited by Republicans: George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley.

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., reiterating their party's widespread accusation that the investigation into Trump is a distraction from their legislative responsibilities. They wrote that Democrats "have utterly failed in their duty to the American people."

The Republican lawmakers listed areas such as immigration, gun violence, domestic terrorism, opioid addiction and election security as issues Democrats have ignored. Democrats have actually passed bills, including ones on voting rights, gun safety and immigrant protections - but along strictly partisan lines.

In an attempt to foster public support for the impeachment probe, House Democrats released a video that captures the testimony most damaging to Trump from the two weeks of public hearings before the House Intelligence Committee.

The video, which runs more than two and a half minutes and is set to dramatic music, opens with the words: "Two weeks of testimony. One story of betrayal."

It features clips of several key witnesses. Among them:

- William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, who spoke about the withholding of U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

"To withhold that assistance for no good reason other than help with a political campaign made no sense," Taylor says. "It was counterproductive to all of what we had been trying to do. It was illogical. It could not be explained. It was crazy."

- Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a senior staff member of the National Security Council who listened in to Trump's July call with Zelensky.

"I couldn't believe what I was hearing," he says. "It was probably an element of shock, that maybe in certain regards, my worst fear of how our Ukraine policy could play out was playing out and how this was likely to have significant implications for U.S. national security."

- Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who acknowledged a "quid pro quo."

"Was there a quid pro quo with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting?" Sondland says. "The answer is yes. . . . Everyone was in the loop. . . . We followed the president's orders."

Also Tuesday, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs, contradicted two common Trump talking points. Hale told the committee that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was not a "hoax," and that he has seen no evidence to suggest that Ukraine was guilty of interference in that election.

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the panel, asked Hale whether he had any reason to disagree with testimony former White House national security expert Fiona Hill gave the House that the conspiracy theory about Ukraine's interference "is a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian Security Services themselves."

Hale, the third-ranking State Department official, said he did not.

Menendez went on to point out that Trump has continued to press the Ukraine story line even though it was disputed by career diplomats and intelligence officials.

"Is our national security made stronger or weaker when members of the administration or members of Congress insist on repeating debunked Russian lies?" Menendez asked.

"That does not serve our interest," Hale said.

Continue Reading

on Jamestown Sun

Featured