House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Wednesday zeroed in on what he sees as President Donald Trump’s impeachable offense.
Schiff said the summary of Trump’s call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, which the White House released Wednesday morning, revealed Trump put national security at risk and acted like “a mafia boss” while pressuring Zelensky to investigate his potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden, in a discussion about U.S. military aid.
“I think in its most naked form ― and this is what our inquiry is going to look into ― the president has now admitted the notes of this call ― and we don’t even know if these are the complete notes of that call ― indicate the president of the United States shaking down a foreign leader, essentially undermining the national security of this country for a personal, political gain and one that violates his oath of office,” Schiff told reporters.
The California Democrat said that detail is “very powerful evidence of that kind of potential impeachable offense,” but added that he wants to get “the full facts before the American people” before moving forward with impeachment.
Schiff, who is one of the leaders of the House impeachment investigation, continued to build his case later Wednesday in a joint statement with Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee; Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform; and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
“This is a clear breach of trust placed in the President to faithfully execute the laws and to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution,” the chairmen said of Trump’s behavior in his call with the Ukrainian president.
“Let’s be clear: no quid pro quo is required to betray our country,” they said. “Trump asked a foreign government to interfere in our elections ― that is betrayal enough. The corruption exists whether or not Trump threatened ― explicitly or implicitly ― that a lack of cooperation could result in withholding military aid.”
With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) now backing an impeachment inquiry, Democrats are focused on getting access to the full and unredacted whistleblower complaint at the heart of the investigation. They’ve been pressing the White House to turn it over in ahead of a Thursday hearing with the Director of National Intelligence.
Asked if Democrats expect to receive the complaint in time for the hearing, Schiff said he’s “heard nothing from the White House” and that it is deeply inappropriate that Trump is even in a position to control whether Congress has access to it.
“If indeed the president is the subject of the whistleblower complaint, the idea that the president can control ... whether that complaint ever gets to its intended recipient, that is the Congress, is a scandal,” he said.