- The Washington Times - Monday, December 2, 2019

House Republicans rained on Democrats’ impeachment parade Monday by releasing a report that picks apart the case against President Trump as an unproven smear campaign generated by disgruntled bureaucrats, as the president criticized Democrats for moving forward with impeachment while he is attending a key NATO conference overseas.

The report, released as the House Judiciary Committee prepares to hold its first impeachment hearing Wednesday, dismissed every accusation by Democrats that Mr. Trump abused his office and engaged in bribery or extortion to force the Ukrainian president to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

“The Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is not the organic outgrowth of serious misconduct; it is an orchestrated campaign to upend our political system. The Democrats are trying to impeach a duly elected president based on the accusations and assumptions of unelected bureaucrats who disagreed with President Trump’s policy initiatives and processes,” said the report, a copy of which was reviewed by The Washington Times.

The president, who left Washington on Monday morning for the NATO meeting in the United Kingdom, tweeted his approval as soon as Air Force One landed in London. He reiterated that a summary of his July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president showed no wrongdoing.

“Prior to landing I read the Republicans Report on the Impeachment Hoax. Great job!” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Radical Left has NO CASE. Read the Transcripts. Shouldn’t even be allowed. Can we go to Supreme Court to stop?”

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence who has spearheaded the inquiry, accused the Republicans of ignoring the facts and kowtowing to Mr. Trump.

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump slams Democrats for holding impeachment hearing during his overseas trip

“The minority’s rebuttal document, intended for an audience of one, ignores voluminous evidence that the president used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rival by withholding military aid and a White House meeting the president of Ukraine desperately sought. In so doing, the president undermined our national security and the integrity of our elections,” Mr. Schiff said in a statement.

“Tellingly, the minority dismisses this as just part of the president’s ‘outside the Beltway’ thinking. It is more accurately, outside the law and Constitution, and a violation of his oath of office,” he said.

Democrats have been building momentum for impeachment by circulating a report by the House intelligence committee on Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine ahead of a scheduled vote to approve it Tuesday. They then plan to forward the report to the Judiciary Committee for consideration of articles of impeachment.

Mr. Trump said the timing of the Judiciary Committee’s first hearing on the standards for impeachment is a deliberate attempt to humiliate him on the world stage. The president said Democrats’ partisan motives validate his decision not to participate in the hearing.

“The Democrats, the radical leftist Democrats, the do-nothing Democrats decided when I’m going to NATO — this was set up a year ago — that when I’m going to NATO, that was the exact time,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “This is one of the most important journeys that we make as president, and for them to be doing this and saying this and putting impeachment on the table, which is a hoax to begin with.”

Asked why he isn’t sending his attorneys to the hearing, the president replied, “Because the whole thing is a hoax. Everybody knows it.”

SEE ALSO: Democrats release witness list for first Judiciary impeachment hearing

The Republicans’ report isn’t likely to stop the Democrats’ rush to impeachment, but it could bolster rising doubts about the inquiry that have surfaced in a series of polls, especially among independent voters.

The report described the impeachment effort as part of a “deep state” that has resisted Mr. Trump since he took office.

“They are trying to impeach President Trump because some unelected bureaucrats were discomforted by an elected president’s telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. They are trying to impeach President Trump because some unelected bureaucrats chafed at an elected president’s ‘outside the Beltway’ approach to diplomacy,” it said.

The impeachment inquiry stems from a July 25 phone call in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky for a “favor” in investigating Mr. Biden and a missing Democratic National Committee server from the 2016 presidential race, which the Trump administration believes is in Ukraine. A whistleblower, who is believed to be a CIA official assigned to the White House, accused the president of abusing his power for personal gain on the call, including withholding nearly $400 million of U.S. military aid from Ukraine as leverage.

“House Democrats allege that Ukraine felt pressure to bend to the president’s political will, but the evidence shows a different reality,” the Republican report stated. “Ukraine felt good about its relationship with the United States in the early months of the Zelensky administration, having had several high-level meetings with senior U.S. officials between July and September. Although U.S. security assistance was temporarily paused, the U.S. government did not convey the pause to the Ukrainians because U.S. officials believed the pause would get worked out and, if publicized, may be mischaracterized as a shift in U.S. policy towards Ukraine.”

The report was signed by Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the intelligence committee, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Oversight and Reform Committee, and Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas, the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

They completed the report as Mr. Schiff prepared to review a draft of his report detailing the evidence of wrongdoing by the president.

The Judiciary Committee is charged with drafting articles of impeachment. Democrats are pursuing a House impeachment vote before Christmas.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrod Nadler, New York Democrat, called the White House’s refusal to participate in the Wednesday hearing “unfortunate.” He said it was a priority to have the administration participate in the inquiry and that the president should take the opportunity to show that his phone call with the Ukrainian president wasn’t an abuse of power.

“The American people deserve transparency,” Mr. Nadler said. “If the president thinks the call was ‘perfect’ and there is nothing to hide, then he would turn over the thousands of pages of documents requested by Congress and allow witnesses to testify instead of blocking testimony with baseless privilege claims and provide exculpatory information that refutes his overwhelming abuse of power.”

Mr. Zelensky reiterated in an interview published Monday that he never discussed a “quid pro quo” with Mr. Trump. But he also questioned the wisdom of blocking the congressionally approved security assistance for his country in the midst of its war with Russia.

“We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us,” Mr. Zelensky said. “I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.

“Look, I never talked to [Mr. Trump] from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing. … I don’t want us to look like beggars.”

Mr. Trump seized on Mr. Zelensky’s comments as more proof that the House Democrats’ impeachment case is baseless.

“The Ukrainian president came out and said very strongly that President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong,” the president said. “That should be ‘case over.’ But it will never end it because [Democrats] want to do what they want to do.”

White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway defended the decision for Mr. Trump and his attorneys to sit out the Judiciary Committee’s hearing, which will feature four constitutional scholars — three picked by Democrats. She and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said the process is unfair to the president.

“Why would we participate in an exercise where they’re going to have three witnesses and we’re going to have one?” she said.

Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican, called Mr. Nadler’s handling of the proceedings, which haven’t begun, an outrage and damaging to the institution.

The head of the House Freedom Caucus, Mr. Biggs said Republicans are essentially flying blind just two days before the next phase of the impeachment proceedings begin.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee won’t have much time to prepare for Wednesday’s hearing, with the names of the four witnesses announced late Monday. They also will need to review the House intelligence committee’s report, which is set to be voted on Tuesday night.

“We’re going to have all this information,” Mr. Biggs told The Washington Times. “By the time it filters through to the Judiciary members we’re going to have 12 to 18 hours to review that information from the Schiff [intelligence committee] report and information on the [witnesses’] professions. And we’ll be sitting there with a distinct disadvantage.”

The top Republican on the Judiciary Committee blasted Democrats for rushing into impeachment hearings without providing the evidence or details about the proceedings.

“For the first time in history, this committee will weigh impeachment without any evidence for us to review,” Rep. Doug Collins, Georgia Republican, wrote to Mr. Nadler.

As the Democrats’ process picked up steam, impeachment was clearly on the president’s mind during his flight to London.

“The Republican Party has NEVER been so united!” Mr. Trump tweeted while aboard Air Force One. “This Impeachment Scam is just a continuation of the 3 year Witch Hunt, but it is only bringing us even closer together!”

The NATO meeting, to mark the alliance’s 70th anniversary, will be more ceremonial than business. Mr. Trump and his counterparts are scheduled to attend a reception with Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday and will hold a short working session Wednesday, ending without the traditional joint communique of a formal summit.

The president said he intends to “fight hard for the American People” in Europe, continuing his push to get more NATO members to pay the required 2% of gross domestic product for defense. He has said the threshold, unmet by major powers such as Germany and France, was a prime motivation for holding up U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the president’s efforts have persuaded NATO members to spend $130 billion more per year on security.

“This is a direct result of President Trump making it clear our expectations that these Europeans would step up to help secure their own people,” Mr. Pompeo said on “Fox & Friends.”

He also criticized Democrats for ignoring “a long tradition that we support presidents when they travel overseas to do their work.” He said the House was trying “to distract America’s president from his important mission overseas.”

“I regret that they’ve chosen to hold these hearings at the same time that the president and our entire national security team will be traveling to Europe, to London, to work on these important matters,” Mr. Pompeo said.

Mr. Pompeo noted that the administration has provided Ukraine three times with “the weapons, the defensive systems, that the Ukrainian military needed to defend themselves against the Russian activities.” “We’ve been relentless in pursuing this strategic objective,” he said. “We’ve supported the Ukrainian people and their capacity to defend themselves.”

⦁ Jeff Mordock contributed to this report.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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