Impeachment report claims Trump misused office to solicit election help from Ukraine | CBC News

The House intelligence committee released a sweeping impeachment report Tuesday outlining evidence of what it calls Donald Trump's wrongdoing toward Ukraine, findings that will serve as the foundation for debate over whether the 45th U.S. president should be removed from office.

The 300-page report from Democrats on the intelligence committee makes the case that Trump misused the power of his office and, in the course of its investigation, obstructed Congress by stonewalling the proceedings. Based on two months of investigation, the report contains evidence and testimony from current and former U.S. officials.

"The impeachment inquiry has found that President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the U.S. government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his re-election," the report said.

In doing so, Trump "placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security," the report said.

The report does not render a judgment on whether Trump's actions stemming from a July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president rise to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors" warranting impeachment, leaving that to Congress to decide.

Instead, the Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report provides a detailed account of shadow diplomacy run by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, resulting in layers of allegations, which can be distilled into specific acts like bribery, extortion or obstruction, and the more amorphous allegation that Trump abused his power by putting his interests above the nation.

Watch: Rep. Adam Schiff discusses the newly released report:

Democrat Adam Schiff says impeachment report chronicles 'scheme' by Donald Trump to 'coerce' ally into doing his 'dirty work.' 2:17

The House intelligence panel will vote later Tuesday, in what is expected to be a party-line tally, to send the document to the judiciary committee ahead of a landmark impeachment hearing Wednesday.

"With the release of our report, the American people can review for themselves the evidence detailing President Trump's betrayal of the public trust," Schiff said in a joint statement with the chairs of the oversight and foreign affairs committees, who drafted the report.

In a statement, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said Schiff and the Democrats "utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump." She said the report "reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing."

Ahead of the release, Republicans defended the president in a rebuttal claiming Trump never intended to pressure Ukraine when he asked for a "favour" — investigations of Democrats and Joe Biden. The Republicans say the military aid the White House was withholding was not being used as leverage, as Democrats claim, and that the $400 million US was ultimately released, although only after a congressional outcry.

Trump, at the opening of a NATO leaders' meeting in London on Tuesday, criticized the impeachment push as "unpatriotic" and "a bad thing for our country."

In prefacing the report, Schiff draws deeply from history, citing George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and other U.S. founders, to explain grounds for impeachment.

"Rather than a mechanism to overturn an election, impeachment was explicitly contemplated as a remedy of last resort for a president who fails to faithfully execute his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," he wrote.

The report will lay the foundation for the House judiciary committee to assess potential articles of impeachment starting Wednesday, presenting a history-making test of political judgment with a case that is dividing Congress and the country.

Trump said he will not watch the judiciary panel's hearing, saying it's "all nonsense, they're just wasting their time."

Early rebuttal

Democrats once hoped to sway Republicans to consider Trump's removal, but they are now facing the prospect of an ever-hardening partisan split over the swift-moving proceedings on impeaching the president.

For Republicans who offered an early rebuttal ahead of the report's public release, the proceedings are simply a "hoax," with Trump insisting he did nothing wrong and his Republican allies are in line behind him.

Trump has criticized the House for pushing forward with the proceedings while he was overseas, a breach of political decorum that traditionally leaves partisan differences at the water's edge.

He predicted Republicans would actually benefit from the impeachment effort against him.

President Donald Trump is seen here speaking to reporters at the White House last week. On Tuesday, House Democrats released a report detailing their impeachment case against him. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

For the Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces a critical moment of her leadership as she steers the process ahead after resisting the impeachment inquiry through the summer, warning at the time that it was too divisive for the country and required bipartisan support.

Possible grounds for impeachment are focused on whether Trump abused his office as he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 phone call to open investigations into Trump's political rivals. At the time, Trump was withholding $400 million US in military aid, jeopardizing key support as Ukraine faced an aggressive Russia at its border.

The report also accuses Trump of obstructing the House constitutional authority to conduct the impeachment inquiry, becoming the "first and only" president in U.S. history to "openly and indiscriminately" defy the proceedings by instructing officials not to comply with subpoenas for documents and testimony.

Next steps

The next step comes when the judiciary committee opens its own hearing with legal experts to assess the findings and consider potential articles of impeachment ahead of a possible vote by the full House by Christmas. That would presumably send it to the Senate for a trial in January.

For Democrats marching into what is now a largely partisan process, the political challenge if they proceed is to craft the impeachment articles in a way that will draw the most support from their ranks and not expose Pelosi's majority to messy divisions, especially as Republicans stand lock-step with the president.

While liberal Democrats are pushing the party to go further and incorporate the findings from former special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and other actions by Trump, more centrist and moderate Democrats prefer to stick with the Ukraine matter as a simpler narrative that Americans understand.

Trump's campaign is spending robustly to run ads against front-line freshmen lawmakers, many from districts Trump won in 2016 but that flipped in 2018 to give Democrats the majority and Pelosi will be protective of these lawmakers as the proceedings unfold.

House Republicans pre-empted the report's public release with their own 123-page rebuttal.

Republicans released their defence of U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of the public release of the impeachment report and criticized the report being released while Trump was out of the country. 2:02

In it, they claim there's no evidence Trump pressured Zelensky. Instead, they say Democrats just want to undo the 2016 election. Republicans dismiss witness testimony of a shadow diplomacy being run Giuliani, and they rely 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 Zelensky 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. Devin Nunes of California, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Michael McCaul of Texas.

White House won't participate

Democrats could begin drafting articles of impeachment against the president in a matter of days, with voting in the judiciary committee next week.

Republicans on the committee, led by Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, plan to use procedural moves to stall the process and portray the inquiry as unfair to the president.

The White House declined an invitation to participate in Wednesday's hearing, with counsel Pat Cipollone denouncing the proceedings as a "baseless and highly partisan inquiry" in a letter to Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat. 

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 demanded more information from Democrats before Trump would decide whether to participate in additional hearings.

Nadler said Monday if the president really thought his call with Ukraine was "perfect," as he repeatedly says, 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.