Congressional report cites ‘overwhelming’ evidence against Trump

UNTV News   •   December 4, 2019   •   219

US President Donald Trump leaves 10 Downing Street during the NATO Summit in London on Tuesday, 3 Dec. 2019. EFE-EPA/WILL OLIVER

WASHINGTON — The Intelligence Committee of the US House of Representatives said Tuesday that its impeachment probe of President Donald Trump uncovered “overwhelming” evidence that the occupant of the White House has engaged in misconduct.

“The evidence of the President’s misconduct is overwhelming, and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress,” the Democratic-led panel said in its 300-page report.

The members of the committee, including Trump’s Republican allies, are due to vote Tuesday evening on whether to accept the report and forward it to the House Judiciary Committee as the basis for drafting articles of impeachment against the president.

Trump, according to the document, withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure that country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, into launching an investigation of 2020 Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

That investigation – which never materialized – would have focused on Hunter Biden’s acceptance of a position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company in 2014, when his father was coordinating US policy toward Kiev as vice president under Barack Obama.

The intelligence committee report describes a “drastic” increase in pressure on Ukraine during the period between the July 25 telephone call in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the Bidens and the public revelations about that conversation due to the whistle-blower complaint filed by a US government official.

“In the weeks following the July 25 call, the President’s hand-picked representatives increased the President’s pressure campaign on Ukrainian government officials – in person, over the phone, and by text message – to secure a public announcement of the investigations beneficial to President Trump’s re-election campaign,” according to the document.

“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 says.

Trump denies that delaying the nearly $400 million in eventually disbursed aid to Ukraine or his reluctance to invite Zelensky to the White House had anything to do with a desire that Kiev announce an an investigation of the Bidens.

But the report concludes that Trump did seek to extract such a commitment from Zelensky and that in so doing, he “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States.”

The text goes on to accuse the president of orchestrating an “unprecedented” effort to obstruct the impeachment probe.

Within minutes of the report’s publication, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that the document “reflects nothing more than their (Democrats) frustrations” and “reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.” EPA-EFE

Trump’s defense team asks Senate to speedily reject impeachment case

UNTV News   •   January 21, 2020

US President Donald Trump. EFE-EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo/File

By Susana Samhan

Washington –
Defense attorneys for President Donald Trump on Monday called on the Republican-controlled Senate to “speedily reject” the impeachment case against him, scheduled to begin on Tuesday, and called the Democrats’ investigation of the president “rigged.”

The president’s lawyers had until noon on Monday to present in writing their arguments in defending Trump, after Democratic lawmakers who will be the “managers” of the impeachment case formally expressed their point of view in a similar document last Saturday.

Trump’s lawyers said in their memo released by the White House on Monday that House Democrats during the impeachment inquiry last fall were trying “to corrupt the extraordinary power of impeachment for use as a political tool to overturn the result of the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election.”

“All of that is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn,” wrote lead attorney and White House counsel Pat Cipollone. “The Articles themselves – and the rigged process that brought them here – are a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected.”

In a telephone press conference before the delivery and release of the document, sources working with Trump’s defense team and requesting anonymity refused to clarify if the request for a “speedy” rejection of the two impeachment articles filed against him will include a motion to demand that the Senate simply dismiss the charges.

The source said that they were not going to discuss details about what the defense strategy will be when the trial commences, saying only that neither of the two articles is legitimate because they do not specify that the president broke the law.

In the 171-page document, the legal team focuses more on claiming that the impeachment articles – for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – are invalid than in denying that Trump illegally pressured Ukraine to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden with an eye toward influencing the 2020 presidential election, in which the former VP is a top Democratic contender.

The attorneys called the charges shaky since they do not specify any crime, despite the fact that many legal scholars assert that a president does not have to break the law to commit an impeachable offense.

During their September-December impeachment investigation, House Democrats say they found ample evidence that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce a bogus Biden corruption investigation while withholding some $400 million in military aid and that he obstructed Congress by refusing to release any documents related to – or allow any White House officials to testify on – the matter.

The two impeachment articles against Trump were approved along party lines in December by the House, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi withheld delivering them to the GOP-led Senate for weeks, during which time additional evidence of administration wrongdoing emerged.

On Saturday, the seven House managers who will prosecute the Democratic case against Trump in the Senate, filed a brief with the upper house saying that the president’s actions constituted “the Framers’ worst nightmare” and his behavior presents a “danger to our democratic processes.”

The president’s defense team includes Cipollone and Jay Sekulow, along with Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, Pam Bondi, Jane Raskin, Eric Herschmann and Robert Ray.

Trump is just the third US president to be impeached after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, both of whom were acquitted in the Senate. Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached in 1974.

The president will not be in Washington, at least for the start of the trial on Tuesday, because he is scheduled to travel to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.

Trump invites Duterte, other ASEAN leaders for March Summit

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 20, 2020

ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings in Manila epa06325844 US President Donald J. Trump (L) talks to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (R) before the opening ceremony of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila, Philippines,13 November 2017. The Philippines is hosting the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings from 10 to 14 November. EPA-EFE/MARK R. CRISTINO / POOL

United States (US) President Donald Trump has invited President Rodrigo Duterte and nine other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) for the US-ASEAN Summit in March.

Trump previously invited the ASEAN leaders on November 1, 2019 and reiterated his invitation on January 9, 2020.

“This will provide an excellent opportunity for us to broaden and deepen our cooperation on matters of great importance to the nearly one billion people in the United States and ASEAN nations that we have the privilege to represent,” Trump said in his invitation.

However, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said there is still no official response on whether President Duterte will accept the invitation of the US president.—AAC

Trump’s impeachment trial in Senate officially begins

UNTV News   •   January 17, 2020

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (Front L) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (Front R) lead impeachment managers walking to the Senate chamber before being sworn-in at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on 16 January 2020. The Senate impeachment trial of US President Donald J. Trump started with the reading of the articles of impeachment on the Senate floor by House managers and the swearing-in of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and senators. The trial is to get under way in earnest on 21 January 2020. EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Washington – The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump officially kicked off on Thursday in the Senate with the reading of the charges that the United States’ lower house approved last month.

Substantial trial proceedings, however, will not begin until Tuesday afternoon.

The chairman of the House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff (D-CA), who will head a group of seven House managers prosecuting the case, was tasked with reading the two articles of impeachment to the members of the Republican-controlled Senate.

The first charge of “abuse of power” states that Trump used the power of his office to solicit “the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States presidential election.”

That accusation stems from an allegation that during a phone call last July Trump sought personal political gain by improperly pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly announce an investigation into the alleged interference years ago of US former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, in a probe of his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine.

The lower house found that Trump also improperly pushed Ukraine to publicly announce an investigation into a “discredited theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine – rather than Russia – interfered in the 2016 United States presidential election.”

The House alleges that Trump exerted pressure by freezing nearly $400 million of US military and security aid to Ukraine about a week before he talked to Zelensky and delaying a head of state meeting between the two leaders at the White House.

Trump, who says the aid – eventually released on Sept. 11 – was withheld due to his frustration with what he considered to be an insufficient amount of monetary assistance provided to Ukraine by other countries, says the rough transcript of the phone call that the White House released on Sept. 25 shows he did nothing wrong.

The second article of impeachment accuses the president of “obstruction of Congress,” for directing executive branch agencies, offices and officials not to comply with subpoenas seeking documents and testimony deemed vital to the House’s inquiry.

Trump and his supporters say the constitution gives presidents broad constitutional grounds for resisting such demands from the legislative branch for privileged executive material unless a court compels them to produce it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had delayed sending over the charges under the argument that she first needed to know what rules would govern the Senate trial.

Democrats say a fair trial can only be assured if the senators, who will act as jury in the impeachment case, hear from witnesses who did not testify during the proceedings in the House. It still remains to be seen whether 51 senators will vote to do so.

Since the approval of the impeachment articles, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed a procedure modeled on the one the Senate followed in 1998 during the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton.

On that occasion, senators listened to presentations from the prosecution and the defense before holding a vote on whether to call witnesses.

On Thursday afternoon, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn in to oversee the impeachment trial. He then proceeded to swear in all 100 senators – 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents (who caucus with the Democrats) – as jurors for the proceedings.

Trump is only the third US president to be impeached.

Both Andrew Johnson – in 1868 – and Clinton were acquitted in the Senate, while Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before the lower house could vote on his impeachment.

Under the Constitution, the approval of articles of impeachment in the House is to be followed by a trial in the Senate, where it takes a two-thirds majority to remove the president from office.

Due to Republicans’ control of that upper chamber, a conviction is considered highly unlikely. EFE-EPA

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