Democrats present the basics of impeachment case against Trump
By Alex Segura Lozano
House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-Georgia), at right, speaks during the committee hearing on impeachment of President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, 09 December 2019. EFE/EPA/Anna Moneymaker / POOL
Video of President Donald Trump is shown during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment on Capitol Hill in Washington, 09 December 2019. EFE-EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
By Alex Segura Lozano
Washington, Dec 9 (efe-epa).- The legal team of the Democrats in the US House of Representatives on Monday presented what it considers to be the "ABC's" of the impeachment case against President Donald Trump: abuse of power, betraying the national interest and election corruption.
These alleged actions by the president, according to Democratic legal experts, constitute sufficient reason to draft the so-called "articles of impeachment" against the president, that is to formally accuse him of committing "high crimes and misdeameanors" that may result in his removal from office.
The lawyer for the Democrats, Daniel Goldman, said in his closing statement at the Monday's House Judiciary Committee hearing, that Trump "directed a scheme to pressure Ukraine into opening two investigations that would benefit his 2020 reelection campaign, not the US national interest," and "used his official office and the official tools of US foreign policy - the withholding of an Oval Office meeting and $391 million in security assistance - to pressure Ukraine into meeting his demands."
Goldman went on to say that "everyone was in the loop - from ... Vice President (Mike Pence) and ... Acting Chief of Staff (Mick Mulvaney), to ... Secretary of State (Mike Pompeo) and Secretary of Energy (Rick Perry)," and "despite public discovery of this scheme, which prompted (Trump) to release the aid, he has not given up. He and his agents continue to solicit Ukrainian interference in our election, causing an imminent threat to our elections and our national security."
Specifically, Democrats - on the basis of evidence they have compiled to date - believe that Trump attempted to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into the activities of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine to try and dig up evidence of their corruption.
The former vice president is one of the leading Democratic presidential hopefuls and may vie with Trump for the 2020 election, and thus any dirt that could be found on him or his family would presumably benefit the president's re-election bid.
Ukraine has already said that it has found no evidence that either Biden engaged in any corrupt activities.
Nevertheless, Trump had frozen some $391 million in US military aid to Ukraine and Democrats contend that this was a premeditated plan to blackmail Kyiv into investigating the Bidens in exchange for having the aid released.
Meanwhile, in the House hearings, Republican lawyer Stephen Castor argued that the evidence against Trump so far was not sufficient to require impeachment and that Zelensky had publicly stated that he did not feel pressured by Trump, among other things.
Castro said that no clear evidence exists that Trump acted with "malicious" intentions in asking Zelensky to launch the probe into the Bidens.
He also contended that Trump had a "legitimate" reason to be concerned about Hunter Biden's role on the board of Ukrainian gas firm Burisma, a highly paid post he received while his father was Barack Obama's vice president and the mediator of the conflict over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.
GOP lawmakers criticized the congressional investigation mounted by the Democrats as being "unfair" and "partisan" with the aim of damaging Trump's image before the 2020 election.
The tension in the committee room was palpable throughout the hearing, with Republican lawmakers shouting at committee Chair Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, and accusing him of committing "treason" by being one of the main figures leading the impeachment investigation against the president.
Once the impeachment charges against the president are drafted and receive the approval of the House Judiciary Committee, controlled by the Democrats, the whole House will vote on them and they are expected to pass given the Democrats 235-199 majority over the GOP there.
No date has yet been set for that vote, but all indications are that it will be held before the end of the year.
After that, the second phase of the impeachment proceedings will take place in the Senate, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 53-47.
Given that the law requires a two-thirds majority of senators voting for impeachment to ensure that a president is removed from office, it appears to be virtually impossible for the anti-Trump forces to muster enough support to oust the president.
Report finds no political bias behind FBI's 2016 probe of Trump
Washington, Dec 9 (EFE).- The FBI's decision in 2016 to open an investigation into suspected Russian meddling in the elections was not driven by political bias, but agents made "fundamental and serious errors" in surveillance of one of Donald Trump's advisers, according to a report released Monday by the Department of Justice.
The FBI had an "authorized purpose" in launching the probe, dubbed Crossfire Hurricane, department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in the 434-page document.
Horowitz looked specifically at mistakes and omissions in the applications FBI agents and other DoJ officials made to federal judges in pursuit of a warrant to monitor the communications of Carter Page, who was advising the Trump campaign on foreign policy.
That type of warrant is issued under the terms of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), enacted in 1978 following revelations about widespread warrantless surveillance of Americans by US intelligence agencies.
A FISA court authorized surveillance of Page in October 2016. The permit was renewed three times in the first six months of 2017.
"We are deeply concerned that so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked investigative teams; on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations; after the matter had been briefed to the highest levels within the FBI; even though the information sought through the use of FISA authority related so closely to an ongoing presidential campaign; and even though those involved with the investigation knew that their actions were likely to be subjected to close scrutiny," Horowitz wrote.
Trump, currently battling a move by Democrats in Congress to impeach him for putting pressure on the government of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, had been saying for months that the IG's report would show the FBI probe was politically motivated.
In his first public reaction to Horowitz's report, Trump said the findings were "far worse than I ever thought possible."
The actions of the FBI and DoJ represented "an attempted overthrow" of the government, the president said during an event at the White House.
Democrats offered a far different interpretation of the document.
"The IG's report shows that the investigation ... was not politically motivated and that officials acted appropriately in opening the investigation," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney said in a joint statement.
"While the IG identified some problems with the FISA applications by lower level individuals, the IG 'did not find documentary or testimonial evidence of intentional misconduct,'" Nadler and Maloney said.
Attorney General William Barr took issue with Horowitz's conclusion that bias played no part in the FBI investigation.
"The Inspector General's report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a US presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken," Barr said in a statement.
Also demurring from Horowitz's conclusion was John Durham, the veteran federal prosecutor named by Barr to lead a broader investigation of all aspects of Russiagate.
"Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the US and outside of the US," Durham said.
"Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report's conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened," Durham said.