The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a draft report detailing their findings from the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Here are five of the most salient details contained in that 300-page report.
1. Trump Committed a Federal Crime
Chief among the findings contained in the lengthy report is an allegation Trump committed a crime that, on paper, is punishable by as many as 20 years behind bars.
“President Trump publicly attacked and intimidated witnesses who came forward to comply with duly authorized subpoenas and testify about his misconduct, raising grave concerns about potential violations of criminal laws intended to protect witnesses appearing before Congressional proceedings,” the report’s final section begins.
At least four witnesses were subject to Trump’s intimidation, according to the report: former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch; ambassador Bill Taylor; Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman; and Vice President Mike Pence’s top Europe and Russia advisor Jennifer Williams.
“The President engaged in this effort to intimidate these public servants to prevent them from cooperating with Congress’ impeachment inquiry,” the report alleges. “He issued threats, openly discussed possible retaliation, made insinuations about their character and patriotism, and subjected them to mockery and derision…The President’s attacks were broadcast to millions of Americans—including witnesses’ families, friends, and coworkers.”
And here’s the pitch:
It is a federal crime to intimidate or seek to intimidate any witness appearing before Congress. This prohibition applies to anyone who knowingly “uses intimidation, threatens, or corruptly persuades” another person in order to “influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding.” Violations of this law can carry a criminal sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
2. Mike Pence Was Involved
The genesis of the House impeachment inquiry is an intelligence community whistleblower report concerning the July 25 phone call in which Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on Joe Biden by way of an investigation into Hunter Biden’s former business activities in the Ukraine.
The report notes, however, that phone call wasn’t a one-shot attempt at extortion viz. withheld military aid by Trump alone. Rather, the Intelligence Committee claims the conspiracy runs much broader and much deeper than that.
“[The July 25 phone call] was a dramatic crescendo within a months-long campaign driven by President Trump in which senior U.S. officials, including the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Acting Chief of Staff, the Secretary of Energy, and others were either knowledgeable of or active participants in an effort to extract from a foreign nation the personal political benefits sought by the President,” the report alleges.
Here’s how House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) alleges Pence was directly brought into the scheme:
Ambassador [Gordon] Sondland raised the issue of the hold on security assistance. He told Vice President Pence that he was concerned that the security assistance “had become tied to the issue of investigations” and that “everything is being held up until these statements get made.” Vice President Pence nodded in response, apparently expressing neither surprise nor dismay at the linkage between the two.
Pence then met with Zelensky at a summit in Warsaw, Poland where the held up aid came up in conversation.
During that meeting, “Zelensky expressed concern that even an appearance of wavering support from the United States for Ukraine could embolden Russia,” according to the report. “Vice President Pence reiterated U.S. support for Ukraine, but could not promise that the hold would be lifted.”
The report does, however, offer the vice president a bit of an out.
“Pence [told Zelensky] he would relay his support for lifting the hold to President Trump so a decision could be made on security assistance as soon as possible,” the report continues. “Vice President Pence spoke with President Trump [on the evening of August 29], but the hold was not lifted.”
3. So Was Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)
The White House’s interest in alleged—and unproven—Biden family corruption began in earnest after the publication of an April article by The Hill investigative reporter John Solomon which essentially suggested the elder Biden had intervened in Ukrainian politics to force the sacking of an investigator looking into his son’s hydrocarbons firm.
But chasing down those elusive details apparently required some able bodies and voices of authority. One such participant was California Republican and one-time dairy farmer Rep. Devin Nunes.
The report notes at length:
Over the course of the four days following the April 7 article, phone records show contacts between Mr. [Rudy] Giuliani, Mr. [Lev] Parnas, Representative Devin Nunes, and Mr. Solomon. Specifically, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Parnas were in contact with one another, as well with Mr. Solomon. Phone records also show contacts on April 10 between Mr. Giuliani and Rep. Nunes, consisting of three short calls in rapid succession, followed by a text message, and ending with a nearly three minute phone call. Later that same day, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Solomon had a four minute, 39 second call.
For more on the Nunes connection see Law&Crime’s stand-alone article here.
4. Rudy Giuliani Was “Key”
The 45th president’s personal attorney figures prominently in the report because his footprint on all matters Ukrainian was a well-known and longstanding open secret.
The report notes Giuliani’s mere presence viz. Ukraine turned off at least one potential hire:
Bill Taylor, a former Ambassador to Ukraine, was considering whether to come out of retirement to accept a request to succeed Ambassador Yovanovitch in Kyiv. As of May 26, Ambassador Taylor was “still struggling with the decision,” and, in particular, whether anyone can “hope to succeed with the Giuliani-Biden issue swirling.”
To calm Taylor’s nerves, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised that U.S. policy toward the Ukraine wouldn’t change—essentially an assurance that Giuliani’s shadowy interests weren’t that influential.
Of course, Pompeo couldn’t keep his end up in the slightest:
Ambassador Taylor would quickly come to observe an “irregular channel” led by Mr. Giuliani that, over time, began to undermine the official channel of diplomatic relations with Ukraine. Mr. Giuliani would prove to be, as the President’s National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton would tell a colleague, a “hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up.”
But Giuliani’s involvement in the overarching scheme apparently wasn’t limited to his shadow diplomatic efforts, his investigation into the Bidens or his successful efforts to oust Yovanovitch due to her askance attitude about Giuliani’s clients’ business interests.
Call logs show Giuliani phoning the Office of Management and Budget in August—suggesting that Giuliani himself played some part in, or was aware of, the decision to withhold the military aid.
This sounds kind of like the presidents free lawyer had something to do with the administration’s withholding of aid to Ukraine. https://t.co/zszGOdzCIw
— Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) December 3, 2019
Giuliani’s tweets are referenced some ten times in the extensive footnotes.
5. There’s Still a Fight for Evidence
This item brings the bird’s eye view summary all the way back home. The White House is, in a word, stonewalling Congress in terms of documentary evidence.
“Following President Trump’s categorical order, not a single document has been produced by the White House, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of State, the Department of Defense, or the Department of Energy in response to 71 specific, individualized requests or demands for records in their possession, custody, or control,” the report’s executive summary notes. “These subpoenas remain in full force and effect. These agencies and offices also blocked many current and former officials from producing records directly to the Committees.”
And Trump’s directive to keep the lips tight extended well beyond his immediate purview—implicating at least one additional executive agency in the allegedly unlawful coverup.
Again the Schiff report:
Like the White House, the Department of State refused to produce a single document in response to its subpoena, even though there is no legal basis for the Department’s actions. In fact, on November 22, the Department was forced to produce 99 pages of emails, letters, notes, timelines, and news articles to a non-partisan, nonprofit ethics watchdog organization pursuant to a court order in a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Although limited in scope, this production affirms that the Department is withholding responsive documents from Congress without any valid legal basis.
[image via Tom Brenner/Getty Images]