- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Capitol Hill’s top Democrats on Wednesday said the moves toward impeachment were validated by the newly released transcript of President Trump’s call in which he asked Ukraine to investigate corruption involving a political foe.

“I respect the responsibility of the President to engage with foreign leaders as part of his job. It is not part of his job to use taxpayer money to shake down other countries for the benefit of his campaign,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, who announced the new impeachment inquiry a day before the transcript was made public.

According to an ongoing NBC News tally, a majority of the House — 217 Democrats and one former-Republican independent — have publicly called for some level of impeachment action against Mr. Trump.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said the transcript, which was prepared by the White House, had “absolutely validated” Ms. Pelosi’s decision.

“This is absolute abuse of power by an overreaching executive,” said the New York Democrat.

The document showed that Mr. Trump in the July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky asked for an investigation of alleged corruption involving former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, a top contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. But it did not show Mr. Trump threatening to withhold U.S. aid unless Ukraine complies, as was alleged by a whistleblower and prompted the new push for impeachment.

Republicans argued that the transcript vindicated Mr. Trump.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said it “shows that there was no quid pro quo.”

“Speaker Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry even before seeing the call transcript or hearing from the alleged whistleblower or the director of national intelligence. That says all anyone needs to know about the legitimacy of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry: impeach now, facts later,” he said.

The Justice Department said it had already investigated Mr. Trump’s Ukraine call and cleared the president of wrongdoing.

Mrs. Pelosi slammed the department for “acting in a rouge fashion” to support Mr. Trump.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, California Democrat, described the phone call as a “mafia-like shakedown” of the Ukrainian president.

“The notes of the call reflect a conversation far more damning that I or others expected,” he told reporters.

Mr. Schiff rejected the defense Republicans and the White House have rallied behind — that there was no explicit quid pro quo in the call.

“Like any Mafia boss, the president didn’t need to say ‘That’s a nice country you have there. It’d be a shame if something happened to it.’ Because that was clear from the conversation,” he said. “There is no quid pro quo necessary to betray your oath of office.”

“Ukraine knew what it needed to do if it wanted to get military assistance,” added Mr. Schiff, a staunch opponent of Mr. Trump.

Earlier, one of Ms. Pelosi’s top lieutenants, Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries said the transcripts are a boon to the Democrats’ case.

“That is textbook abuse of power and the transcripts have become exhibit A in that regard,” he told reporters Wednesday.

However, despite claiming the transcripts are “as damming as you can imagine,” top Democrats have so far avoided saying the transcripts make an outright case for impeachment. Rather, they continue to tout that decision will have to be made when their impeachment inquiry finishes.

“I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here,” Mr. Schiff said about possibly moving towards voting on articles of impeachment. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But no one should have any illusions.”

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

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