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After weeks of closed-door and public hearings, the House Intelligence Committee released a 300-page report making the case for impeachment of President Trump, arguing that he solicited the interference of a foreign government in a U.S. election, obstructed the impeachment probe and sought to intimidate witnesses. Lisa Desjardins reports and joins Yamiche Alcindor and Judy Woodruff to discuss.
The U.S. House Intelligence Committee today formally accuses President Trump of abusing his power to pressure a foreign government for his personal political gain.
As Lisa Desjardins reports, it marks the official launch of the next phase of impeachment proceedings.
For Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a turning point.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:
This is not about Ukraine. This is about our democracy. This is about our national security. This is about whether the American people have a right to expect that the president of the United States is going to act in their interests.
After two months of public and closed-door hearings investigating President Trump, Schiff and Democratic staff released a 300-page report laying the groundwork for Democrats' moves toward impeachment.
It charges that Mr. Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection by withholding military aid and other things, including a White House meeting, until Ukraine agreed to political investigations.
The report accuses the president of obstructing Congress by ordering witnesses not to testify in the probe. And it states the president publicly attacked and intimidated congressional witnesses, which the report says is a federal crime.
In their own 110-page report released last night, Republicans called the impeachment inquiry an orchestrated campaign to upend our political system. They said President Trump showed genuine and reasonable skepticism about corruption in Ukraine and that withholding aid was entirely prudent.
That language echoed that of Mr. Trump himself. At a NATO summit in London, sitting next to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mr. Trump raged against the Democrats.
President Donald Trump:
I think it's a disgrace. I think the Democrats should be ashamed of themselves. If you look at impeachment and the word impeachment, here, there was nothing wrong, nothing done wrong.
The president has also pushed a theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election, a claim debunked by the U.S. intelligence community.
As recently as today, Undersecretary of State David Hale was asked about alleged Ukrainian interference at a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.:
Was the Kremlin's interference in our 2016 election a hoax?
Sen. Robert Menendez:
Are you aware of any evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election?
I am not.
But some Senate Republicans have not been so unequivocal.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.:
There are articles about Ukrainian officials talking to Democratic officials. I don't know if that's true or not.
Democrats say their investigation into President Trump will continue. The report now goes to the House Judiciary Committee ahead of tomorrow's public hearings on the constitutional precedent for impeachment.
And Lisa joins me now, along with our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor.
So, Lisa, to you first.
Tell us some of the key takeaways from this report today.
Let's look at the big picture, Judy.
Democrats, first of all, are talking about the call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky. They see two items of misconduct there, separately, the idea that the president used his power for political gain, to get an investigation that helped him politically.
Second, the Democrats say, on that call, the president also did something else wrong, which was try and get a foreign government, Ukraine, to intervene in U.S. politics.
But if you take an even bigger step back, Judy, look even bigger picture, Democrats are also alleging in this report that the president risked our national security by hurting a vulnerable ally, Ukraine, when it needed help, and helping a potential foe, Russia.
Then, one more thing in this report, Judy, that they're alleging, they're alleging, Democrats, a conspiracy and a cover-up. And they're saying it went beyond the president, including other officials, such as Cabinet secretaries, like Secretary of State Pompeo.
They say that their decisions not to testify amount to a cover-up. These are all things we will be hearing a lot about in the next week-and-a-half.
So, Yamiche, you have also taken a close look at all this. What do you see in here that's new information?
Well, Judy, this is the report. It's long and it's tedious.
But the most important thing and the new thing that we learned is that there are going to be call logs in here between Rudy Giuliani calling White House officials and White House officials calling him back. So we put up on the screen — you see, in August, Rudy Giuliani is making a number of calls to the White House, and we see him calling the Office of Management and Budget.
Now, that's very important, because we didn't know that the president's personal attorney was calling that Budget Office. They are very critically connected to the $391 million that was withheld from Ukraine as part of what Democrats would say is a quid pro quo.
So it's really important that the president's personal attorney, that we now know we have physical evidence of him doing that. It's also important, in April 2019, on April 24, Rudy Giuliani was again on the phone with Lev Parnas. He's on the phone with White House officials.
That's the same day that the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, is recalled from Ukraine. So while this is happening, while Democrats would say this is a critical step in Republicans and in the president trying to get people out of the way and move out — move players like Marie Yovanovitch out of the way to get this scheme, as Democrats have said, to really pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and Hunter Biden.
So we now see in these call logs Rudy Giuliani calling on that critical, critical day.
And you were telling us, Yamiche, there are still other call logs in this report that are interesting.
Another important part of this is that Devin Nunes, he's — Representative Devin Nunes. He's on the House Intelligence Committee. He's the ranking member, a Republican.
He is now connected to Lev Parnas, which is an associate of Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, who has been indicted for violating campaign finance laws.
Now, I was on the phone with Lev Parnas' attorney. His name is Joseph Bondy. He was saying this really proves his client's point that he was in contact with this high-ranking Republican congressman and that he was part of this — the lawyer told me, this scheme to try to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
Now, this lawyer is not saying that Devin Nunes was part of this quid pro quo. He stopped short of saying that. But what you have is a sitting congressman now being accused of being part of all of this.
And you now have this physical evidence. And I was told that Lev Parnas didn't know that these call logs existed and that the House Intelligence Committee had them, so this is really a bombshell that is really, really important in all of this.
Now, Lisa, you were, separately, at a press conference today that was held by the Intelligence Committee chair, Adam Schiff.
Tell us about that.
Yamiche was calling Parnas' lawyer. I was asking the same questions to Adam Schiff, because it's his report that now is connecting Mr. Nunes to Mr. Parnas.
So, I asked Chairman Schiff whether he thought Mr. Nunes should recuse himself. Remember, Nunes at this moment is voting on this report in which he is depicted.
So, I asked Chairman Schiff, the Democrat, should the Republican Nunes recuse himself?
Here's his response.
Rep. Adam Schiff:
It won't surprise you I'm going to reserve comment.
It is, I think, deeply concerning that, at a time when the president of the United States was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival, that there may be evidence that there were members of Congress complicit in that activity.
So, that was a classic there. You heard Chairman Schiff first say, I'm going to reserve comment.
But then he did comment that he thought this was a matter of serious concern. And he recommended that perhaps other groups — he didn't say who exactly — should investigate this.
Now, as for Devin Nunes, his office has not responded. And, actually, he didn't answer questions as he walked into the Intelligence Committee just a few minutes ago.
But his ally Jim Jordan, I spoke to him just a few minutes ago. And Jim Jordan, the Republican from Ohio, said, I don't understand what the big deal is. Everyone makes phone calls. I see no problem with that. And, Jordan said, many, many people to speak to Rudy Giuliani. I don't have a problem with that.
So, Yamiche, now we have the Intelligence Committee report. What happens next?
What's next is that the White House is going to continue to defend itself.
I want to point now to a statement that was released by the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham. I'm going to read part of it. It says: "This report reflects nothing more than their frustration." She's talking about the Democrats. "Chairman Schiff's report reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there's evidence of nothing."
So, that's the White House really digging in, saying that Democrats are on a wrong path here, and that they — the president essentially did nothing wrong.
The lawyer for Lev Parnas says that Devin Nunes should recuse himself, so there are people outside of this saying that there needs to be other steps here.
The other thing to note is that the White House is not sending lawyers tomorrow to this hearing, this public hearing by the Judiciary Committee, where we're going to hear from constitutional experts.
So, the White House, as they're defending themselves, are saying, we don't even want to take part in any of this.
And, you know, Judy, let me jump in really quick.
Also, we do expect at least one more hearing. Chairman Schiff told me and other reporters that he expects his staff to present the report at the committee. That will be a big hearing to watch.
Well, all eyes on all of this.
Thank you, Yamiche. Thank you, Lisa.
And please do, all of you, join us tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. We will have special live coverage of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing.
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