House Republicans prepared a pre-emptive rebuttal Monday to Democratic allegations that President Donald Trump abused his power and acted in contempt of Congress, arguing that the president did nothing wrong.
Release of the 123-page draft report came shortly after Democrats announced the four witnesses who will testify when the House Judiciary Committee holds its first hearing Wednesday.
As he departed the White House earlier Monday en route to the NATO summit in London, Trump sharply criticized Democrats for moving forward with impeachment proceedings while he plans to be out of the country.
Lawmakers got their first look at the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report Monday night behind closed doors.
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 the Bidens and a debunked theory alleging Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. In an interview published Monday, Zelensky issued a fresh denial of discussing a “quid pro quo” with Trump but questioned the fairness of freezing military aid.
Among the findings in the Republican draft report meant to rebut the Democratic charges are:
• That Trump “has a deep-seated, genuine, and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine due to its history of pervasive corruption” as well as a “long-held skepticism of U.S. foreign assistance”;
• That there is “indisputable evidence that senior Ukrainian government officials opposed” Trump’s candidacy in 2016,” giving him special reason to be wary of Ukraine;
• That the evidence gathered by Democrats “does not support” their core claim that Trump withheld a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations to politically benefit Trump; and
• That Trump’s decision to resist House subpoenas on sweeping grounds of executive privilege “is a legitimate response to an unfair, abusive, and partisan process.”
The committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday to approve the Democratic report, making way for its public release. The Republican report will serve as an initial blueprint for the GOP defense of Trump as impeachment heads toward Judiciary Committee proceedings, a likely House floor vote, and a subsequent Senate trial on Trump’s removal.
Democrats released the list of four witnesses who will testify on Wednesday. All four are law professors.
Three were chosen by Democrats: Harvard Law School Prof. Noah Feldman, Stanford Prof. Pamela Karlan and University of North Carolina law Prof. Michael Gerhardt. One professor, George Washington University’s Jonathan Turley, was selected by Republicans.
House Democrats also are quietly debating whether to expand articles of impeachment to include charges beyond abuse of power in the Ukraine controversy, setting up a potential internal clash.
The idea is running into resistance from some moderate Democrats wary of impeachment blowback in their GOP-leaning districts. as well as Democratic leaders who sought to keep impeachment narrowly focused on allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, the Washington Post reported.