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Impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump

Impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump
President Donald J. Trump September 2019.jpg
Trump in September 2019
AccusedDonald Trump
(President of the United States)
ProponentsNancy Pelosi
(Speaker of the House of Representatives)
PeriodSeptember 24, 2019 – present
SituationOpening of an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives
CauseAllegations that Trump sought help from Ukrainian authorities to favor him in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

An impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump, the 45th and incumbent president of the United States, was initiated on September 24, 2019, by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.[1][2][3] It began after a whistleblower alleged that President Donald Trump and top administration officials had pressured the leaders of foreign nations, most notably Ukraine, abusing the power of the presidency to advance Trump's personal interests.[4][5][6][7][8] These allegations have been corroborated by testimony so far by Trump-appointed White House administration official Fiona Hill,[4] at least six other White House officials,[9] and other witnesses.[10] Additional allegations of misconduct emerged in the days afterwards.[6] The whistleblower's report was largely based upon information given to them by more than "half a dozen" U.S. officials[9] and has been largely corroborated.[7] The report also implicated Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Attorney General William Barr as part of a more widespread pressure campaign directed towards the Ukrainian government.[9] The first whistleblower's complaint was given to Congress on September 25, 2019, and released to the public the next day.[11] A second whistleblower came forward on October 5, with "first-hand knowledge of allegations" associated with the call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.[12]

From May to August 2019, Trump and Giuliani repeatedly pressed the government of Ukraine to investigate his political opponent Joe Biden, a former U.S. vice president and candidate for the 2020 U.S. Democratic presidential nomination, and Biden's son Hunter.[13][14] On July 18, 2019, through his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, Trump instructed his staff to place a hold on congressionally mandated military aid to Ukraine.[15][16] During a phone call a week later, he pressured President Zelensky to launch two investigations, including one into the actions of the Bidens. The whistleblower also accused the White House of attempting to cover up the contents of this phone call.[9] In response, the Trump administration released a memorandum of the call, confirming that Trump had asked Zelensky to "look into" Biden.[17][18]

The whistleblower's report recorded that Trump's violations were "so obviously egregious" that White House officials immediately attempted to cover it up. One such action was intentionally misclassifying the transcript of the call, and other evidence of presidential misconduct and politically damaging material, so as to place it on top secret servers where very few people would have access to it.[11][19][20] Administration officials had begun placing transcripts of conversations with world leaders onto these servers following high-profile leaks in 2017.[21]

The White House officially responded to the impeachment proceedings in a letter from White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to House Speaker Pelosi that it would cease all cooperation with the investigation due to a litany of concerns, including that there had been no vote of the full House, and that the proceedings were being conducted behind closed doors.[22][23]

Background

Previous efforts for impeachment

Efforts to impeach President Donald Trump have been made by various people and groups.[24][25] Talk of impeachment began even before Trump took office.[26] Formal efforts were initiated by Representatives Al Green and Brad Sherman, both Democrats (D), in 2017, the first year of his presidency.[27][28][29] A December 2017 resolution of impeachment failed in the then Republican-led House by a 58–364 margin.[30]

Democrats gained control of the House following the 2018 elections and launched multiple investigations into Trump's actions and finances.[31][32] On January 17, 2019, new accusations involving Trump surfaced, claiming he instructed his long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie under oath surrounding Trump's involvement with the Russian government to erect a Trump Tower in Moscow.[33] This also sparked calls for an investigation and for the president to "resign or be impeached" should such claims be proven genuine.[34]

The Mueller Report, released on April 18, 2019, reached no conclusion as to whether Trump had committed criminal obstruction of justice.[35] Special Counsel Robert Mueller strongly hinted that it was up to Congress to make such a determination. Congressional support for an impeachment inquiry increased as a result.[36] Speaker Nancy Pelosi initially resisted calls for impeachment.[37] In May 2019, she indicated that Trump's continued actions, which she characterized as obstruction of justice and refusal to honor congressional subpoenas, might make an impeachment inquiry necessary.[38][39] An increasing number of House Democrats and a then-Republican, Justin Amash (who later defected), were requesting such an inquiry.[40]

As of September 2019, the following resolutions had been introduced in the 116th Congress regarding possible impeachment:

Less than 20 Representatives in the House supported impeachment by January 2019, but this number grew after the Mueller Report was released in April and after Mueller testified in July, up to around 140 Representatives before the Trump–Ukraine scandal began.[51]

Trump–Ukraine scandal

The whistleblower complaint regarding a phone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
A memorandum of the call between Trump and Zelensky released by the White House on September 25, 2019

From May to August 2019, Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani pressed the Ukrainian government to investigate business activities of Hunter Biden,[52] the son of 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden,[53][54][55][56][14] who had taken a board seat on Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings.[57][58] Despite the allegations, as of September 2019, there has been no evidence produced of any wrongdoing by the Bidens.[59][60][61][62][63]

The whistleblower report centered around one instance of such pressure that occurred in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump mentioned two investigations he wanted to see Ukraine launch.[9][17] One of these would concern allegations that connected the American cybersecurity technology company CrowdStrike to Ukrainian actors supposedly interfering in the 2016 election.[64][65] Trump had been repeatedly told by aides that Ukraine did not interfere in the 2016 election, but refused to accept these assurances.[66] The theory, which originated on 4chan in 2017, has been spread by blogs, social media, and Fox News.[67] The other requested investigation concerned Joe Biden, former U.S. Vice President and a candidate for the 2020 presidential election, and the Ukrainian business dealings of his son Hunter Biden.[9][2][13] At the time of the inquiry, Joe Biden was the leading candidate in Democratic Party primary polling, according to poll aggregators, making him Trump's most likely 2020 election opponent.[68] On September 25, the White House released part of a transcript of Trump's conversation with Zelensky following a promise to do so the previous day;[69][70] on the same day, the whistleblower complaint was released to Congress.[71]

On July 18, 2019, Trump had placed a hold on military aid to Ukraine[16] while "providing no explanation";[72] he lifted it in September.[72] Trump did not mention the hold in his conversation with Zelensky, but he repeatedly pointed out that the United States has been "very very good" to Ukraine, with which Zelensky agreed. Zelensky then expressed interest in obtaining more U.S. missiles, to which Trump replied "I would like you to do us a favor though" and brought up his request for investigations.[73] Democratic candidate for president Elizabeth Warren described this sentence as a "smoking gun" suggesting a quid pro quo.[73] Prominent Democrats, including Senators Robert Menendez and Chris Murphy, suggested that the hold may have been intended to implicitly or explicitly pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Hunter Biden.[15] Former Ukrainian presidential advisor Serhiy Leshchenko said it was made a "clear fact" that Ukraine's communication with the United States was dependent on discussing a future investigation into the Bidens,[74] while another anonymous Ukrainian lawmaker stated that Trump attempted to "pressure" and "blackmail" them into accepting a "quid-pro-quo" agreement based upon cooperation.[75]

The New York Times reported on October 3, that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker had in August drafted a statement for Velensky to sign that would commit Ukraine to investigate Burisma, the company that Hunter Biden worked for, as well as the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election to benefit Hillary Clinton.[76]

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on September 13, 2019, that he had issued a subpoena to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, as Maguire had failed to release a whistleblower's complaint filed under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act on August 12, 2019, to the congressional intelligence committees as was arguably required by the relevant statute. Schiff argued that he had concerns that the complaint might have been withheld from Congress "in an unlawful effort to protect the President and conceal from the Committee information related to his possible 'serious or flagrant' misconduct, abuse of power, or violation of law."[77][78]

On September 22, shortly after the whistleblower's allegations became public, Trump acknowledged that he had discussed Joe Biden during a call with Zelensky on July 25. Trump stated that "The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don't want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating [sic] to the corruption already in Ukraine."[79] Trump denied that his hold on military aid for Ukraine was linked to the Ukrainian government's refusal to investigate the Hunter Biden controversy, while also saying that withholding aid for this reason would have been ethically acceptable if he had done it.[80] On September 26, 2019, Trump accused the whistleblower of being a "spy" and guilty of treason, before noting that treason is punishable by death.[81][82][83] As a result of Trump's comments, the whistleblower's lawyers said their client feared for his or her safety.[59]

Two people close to Trump told The New York Times that the behavior in the scandal was "typical" of his "dealings on the phone with world leaders", e.g. engaging in flattery, discussing mutual cooperation, and bringing up a personal favor which then could be delegated.[84] In an interview, Giuliani defended Trump, calling the president's request of the Ukrainian president "perfectly appropriate," while also indicating that he himself may have made a similar request to Ukrainian officials.[85] A second whistleblower, who is also an intelligence official, came forward on October 5 with "first-hand knowledge of allegations" associated with the phone call between Trump and Zelensky, according to the lawyer representing both whistleblowers.[12]

Further revelations

President Trump states "China should start an investigation into the Bidens"; video from the White House.

Details emerged on September 27, 2019, that the White House had used the most highly classified computer system to store memorandums of conversations with the leaders and officials of countries including Ukraine, Saudi Arabia and Russia. Administration officials had began storing these transcripts into this system after Trump's conversations with Australia's prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Mexico's president Enrique Peña Nieto leaked earlier in 2017.[21] This was seen by critics and the media as a deliberate attempt to hide potentially damaging information.[86] Also on September 27, it was reported that Trump had told Russian officials in 2017 that he was unconcerned about Russian interference in U.S. elections.[87][88] On October 4, 2019, Trump held a news conference where he publicly said that Ukraine should investigate the Bidens, and also called on China to investigate the Bidens.[89]

Soon after the release of the Mueller report, Trump began urging an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, wanting to "investigate the investigators" and possibly discredit the conclusions of the FBI and Mueller.[90] In April 2019, Attorney General William Barr announced that he had launched a review of the origins of the FBI's investigation,[91][92] even though the origins of the probe were already being investigated by the Justice Department's inspector general and by U.S. attorney John Huber, who had been appointed to the same task in 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.[93] Barr assigned U.S. Attorney John Durham to lead the probe,[94] and Trump directed the American intelligence community to "promptly provide assistance and information" to Barr, and delegated to him the "full and complete authority" to declassify any related documents.[90][95] Although Durham was nominally in charge of the investigation, Barr himself began contacting foreign governments to ask for information about the origins of the FBI probe. Barr personally traveled to the United Kingdom and Italy to seek information; Italy's parliament is expected to begin its own investigation into Barr's meetings with Italian secret services.[96] At Barr's request, Trump himself phoned the prime minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, to ask for assistance.[97][98]

Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, two Florida businessmen and associates of Guiliani, were arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport on October 9, 2019, on campaign finance-related charges brought by federal prosecutors in New York City.[99][100] The men had hired Guiliani as a consultant in their security company and also assisted him in his search in Ukraine for damaging information about Trump's political opponents.[100]

Congressional support for an inquiry

Representative John Lewis says on September 24, 2019, "The time to begin impeachment proceedings, against this president, has come."
House of Representatives debate the whistleblower complaint against President Trump on September 25, 2019.

A majority of House members support the initiation of the impeachment inquiry.[101] As of October 10, 2019, this includes 227 Democrats, and one independent, Representative Amash from Michigan,[102] who left the Republican Party on July 4, 2019, in the wake of his protests regarding the lack of holding Trump accountable.[103] Amash became a leading supporter of impeachment after the whistleblower report was released, stating that the call script was a "devastating indictment of the president".[104] After further allegations of misconduct came to light in late September, Nevada representative Mark Amodei was reportedly the first Republican in the House of Representatives to support an impeachment inquiry,[105] but later clarified that he supported an "oversight process" but did not support an "inquiry," without explaining the distinction between the two.[106][107]

Inquiry

External video
Announcement by Nancy Pelosi of formal impeachment inquiry, September 24, 2019, C-SPAN

On the evening of September 24, 2019, Pelosi announced that six committees of the House of Representatives would undertake a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Pelosi accused Trump of betraying his oath of office, U.S. national security, and the integrity of the country's elections.[1][2][3] The six committees charged with the task are the committees on Financial Services, the Judiciary, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Reform, and Ways and Means.[108]

Maguire, the Acting Director of National Intelligence who delayed the whistleblower complaint from reaching Congress, testified publicly before the House Intelligence Committee on September 26, 2019.[109] Maguire defended his decision not to immediately forward the whistleblower complaint to Congress and explained that he had consulted the White House Counsel and the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department but was unable to determine if the document was protected by executive privilege. Democrats on the committee questioned his actions, arguing that the law demands that he "shall" forward such complaints to the committee. Maguire countered that the situation was unique since the complaint involves communications of the president. Members of the Intelligence Committee also asked the director why he chose to consult with White House lawyers when he was not required to do so by law, to which he responded that he believed "it would be prudent to have another opinion".[110]

In a private conference call with Democratic lawmakers on September 29, 2019, Pelosi explained how three of these House committees will begin investigating the President's alleged abuse of power. The Intelligence Committee will focus on the contents of the whistleblower complaint and whether the complaint may have been wrongfully hidden from Congress, while the Foreign Affairs Committee will focus on interactions the State Department may have had with the President's personal attorney Giuliani, and the Oversight and Reform Committee will investigate whether White House classification systems were used to secure potentially damaging records of phone calls between the President and leaders of various countries around the world.[111]

Requests for evidence and White House refusal

Letter from White House Counsel to the Speaker and committee chairs stating that the Trump administration will not participate in the House's "partisan and unconstitutional" inquiry

On September 27, 2019, a subpoena was issued by the House to obtain documents Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to release earlier. Said documents include several interactions between Trump, Giuliani, and Ukrainian government officials. The documents are requested to be filed with the involved committees probing the issue; the failure to do so "shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House's impeachment inquiry," as stated in a letter written to Pompeo.[112] The subpoena comes after several requests by the House to receive the documents from the Secretary which he did not fulfill. Several members of the House involved with the impeachment inquiry sent him subsequent letters stating that they will be meeting with members of the State Department who may provide further information.[113][114] The following week, a subpoena was also issued to Giuliani for production of documents.[115]

On October 4, 2019, the House Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas both to the White House and to Vice President Mike Pence for documents related to the whistleblower complaint.[116] Among the White House documents requested include audio tapes, transcripts, notes, and other White House documents related to the whistleblower controversy.[117]

On October 8, 2019, the White House announced that it would cease all cooperation with the investigation in a letter from White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to Speaker Pelosi and the three committee chairmen conducting the impeachment investigation.[118] In the letter Cipollone stated that the investigation "violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent"[119] and that "The President cannot allow your constitutionally illegitimate proceedings to distract him and those in the Executive Branch."[120] The letter went on to state that "[the investigation's] unprecedented actions have left the President with no choice. In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch, and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances."[121] House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to the letter stating that "The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the president's abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction."[122]

Giuliani's attorney, Jim A. Sale, sent a letter to the House Intelligence Committee on October 15, 2019, stating that Giuliani will not hand over documents subpoenaed by the committee. Citing attorney–client and executive privilege, the letter characterized the subpoena as "beyond the scope of legitimate inquiry".[123]

Subpoenas for documents

Name Position Deadline date Status of compliance
Gordon Sondland U.S. Ambassador to the European Union October 14, 2019 Refused to provide documents
Mike Pence Vice President of the U.S. October 15, 2019 Refused to provide documents[124]
Rudy Giuliani Personal attorney to President Trump October 15, 2019 Refused to provide documents[125]
Mick Mulvaney Acting White House Chief of Staff October 18, 2019 Refused to provide documents[126]
Rick Perry U.S. Energy Secretary October 18, 2019 Announced resignation on October 17[127]

Subpoenas for testimony

Name Position Deadline date Status of compliance
Joseph Maguire Acting Director of National Intelligence Testified on September 26, 2019, before the House Intelligence Committee[128]
Steve Linick State Department Inspector General Met with Congress on October 2, and shared conspiracy-theory documents Giuliani had previously sent to the FBI[129]
Marie Yovanovitch Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine October 2, 2019 Deposed on October 11[130]
Kurt Volker Former U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine October 3, 2019 Deposed on October 3; returned for additional questioning on October 16[131]
Michael Atkinson Intelligence Community Inspector General Deposed on October 4[129]
George Kent Deputy Assistant Secretary October 7, 2019 Blocked from testifying on October 7;[129] testified on October 15[132][133]
Ulrich Brechbuhl State Department counselor October 8, 2019 Blocked from testifying[129]
Lev Parnas Businessman, associate of Rudy Giuliani October 11, 2019 Arrested on October 9 at Dulles Airport and charged with alleged federal campaign finance-related crimes in New York[100]
Igor Fruman Businessman, associate of Rudy Giuliani October 11, 2019
Fiona Hill Former White House Russia Adviser Deposed on October 14[134]
Semyon Kislin Businessman, associate of Rudy Giuliani October 14, 2019 Reached "an understanding" with committees and is cooperating, according to his attorney[135]
Michael McKinley Senior adviser to Secretary Pompeo Deposed on October 16, 2019[136]
Gordon Sondland U.S. Ambassador to the European Union October 16, 2019 First subpoenaed to appear by October 10; deposed on October 17[137]
Bill Taylor U.S. Diplomat to Ukraine Expected to testify on October 22, 2019[138]
Laura K. Cooper Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Was expected to testify on October 18, 2019;[138] deposition rescheduled to October 24[139]

Closed-door depositions

On the morning of the Cipollone letter, Sondland had been scheduled to testify before the House regarding his involvement in the withholding of aid from the Ukraine. However, he was instructed not to attend at the last minute by the State Department upon Trump's command.[140] Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, testified on October 11 in defiance to the White House although she remains an employee of the U.S. State Department. Yovanovitch told house committees that she was "incredulous" at being dismissed in May.[141] She described the State Department as "attacked and hollowed out from within".[141] Yovanovitch testified that she had never met or spoken with Hunter Biden and that Joe Biden had never raised the subject of his son or the Ukrainian gas firm that employed him.[142] During his July 25 phone call between with Zelensky, Trump called Yovanovitch "bad news" and mentionned that "She's going to go through some things."[143][144]

A former adviser to the president on Russian affairs, Fiona Hill, testified before congressional investigators on October 14, 2019.[145] She told the House committees that Giuliani circumvented State Department officials and diplomats, and that she had confronted Ambassador Sondland, who was assisting Giuliani in his efforts to pressure Ukraine into beginning investigations that would personally benefit Trump. Upon instruction from John Bolton, the former National Security Advisor, Hill expressed her and Bolton's concerns about Giuliani's activities to John Eisenberg, an attorney for the National Security Council, after a meeting in which Sondland announced that there were "[Ukrainian] investigations that were dropped that need to be started up again".[4][146] Hill testified that she, Bolton, Volker, Energy Secretary Rick Perry,[4] and two Ukrainian officials,[146] were at that meeting on July 10, 2019,[147] and that Bolton was furious after the meeting when he told her that he was "not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up".[148][146] Hill told the committees that Giuliani was running a rogue foreign policy while informing the president's official advisers but leaving them powerless to stop it.[146] When she confronted Sondland who she believed was involved in affairs outside his position's purview, he claimed that, according to Trump, he was in charge of Ukraine matters.[146]

George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, appeared before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees on October 15, 2019.[149] Kent is the second current State Department official to defy White House instructions and comply with House subpoenas to testify before the committees.[150] According to Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia), Kent testified that, during a meeting at the White House on May 23 organized by Mulvaney,[151] Sondland, Volkner, and Perry, who called themselves the "three amigos",[132][133] had declared that they were now responsible for Ukrainian affairs.[152] Connolly also said that Kent testified that he had been directed to "lay low" and to focus on foreign relations with the five other countries in his purview.[132]

Ambassador Gordon Sondland's opening statement to his testimony before three House committees, October 17, 2019

A former senior adviser to Secretary Pompeo, Michael McKinley, testified on October 16, 2019, after having resigned from his position the previous week.[153][154] McKinley testified that he had resigned from his position out of frustration with the Trump administration and that the recall of Ambassador Yovanovitch was the "last straw".[155] In his opening remarks, he said "[t]he timing of my resignation was the result of two overriding concerns: the failure, in my view, of the State Department to offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in the impeachment inquiry on Ukraine and, second, by what appears to be the utilization of our ambassadors overseas to advance a domestic political objective.[155][136] McKinley said that he was "disturbed by the implication that foreign governments were being approached to procure negative information on political opponents".[136]

Before appearing in front of three House committees on October 17, 2019, Ambassador Sondland publicly released his opening remarks.[137] He testified that Trump had refused to meet with the Ukrainian president without preconditions and that, in a May 23 meeting, State Department officials were directed to work with Giuliani to address Trump's "concerns" about the Ukrainian government.[156] Sondland claimed that he was ignorant of Giuliani's intentions and had no choice but to work with the president's personal attorney. According to The New York Times, this conflicts with previous testimony given during the inquiry in which other State Department officials testified that Sondland was "a willing participant who inserted himself into Ukraine policy even though the country is not in the purview of his posting, and was a key player in [Trump]'s efforts to win a commitment from the new Ukrainian government to investigate his political rivals."[156] The Washington Post also disputes this claim, asserting that it conflicts with the known timeline of events. According to The Washington Post, "In the weeks leading up to that May 23 White House briefing, Giuliani's and even Trump's interest in spotlighting the Bidens' actions in Ukraine were hardly a secret."[157]

Responses

Trump and the White House

In the wake of the inquiry, the White House threatened to "shut down" all major legislation as political leverage. Trump said there would be "no more infrastructure bills, no more anything".[158] Despite this declaration, legislators continued to work, with an emphasis on spending bills.[159]

Following the initiation of the impeachment inquiry, Trump and his surrogates engaged in a campaign to discredit impeachment.[160] Giuliani took a lead role in television appearances.[161] One aspect of the campaign focused on attacking Joe Biden and his son over alleged but unproven misconduct involving Ukraine.[62] Another aspect of the campaign focused on discrediting the whistleblower over his motivations and for making the complaint on hearsay.[162]

Donald Trump Twitter
@realDonaldTrump

"... If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal." Pastor Robert Jeffress, @FoxNews

September 29, 2019[163]

Trump took to Twitter, attacking opponents and praising supporters.[164] On September 30, 2019, he suggested that one of the investigators, Representative Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, could be arrested for treason,[165] and that a Second American Civil War would occur if he was removed from office.[166] In further tweets, he said that he wanted to meet the whistleblower who had portrayed him in a "totally inaccurate and fraudulent way"; he said the individual illegally gave the information and potentially spied on the United States, and hinted they would face major consequences.[167] Trump also falsely described the impeachment inquiry as "a coup, intending to take away the power of [the] people, their vote, [and] their freedoms,"[168] and said the Democrats were "wasting everyone's time and energy on bullshit".[169]

Trump allegedly told supporters at a private event on September 26, which was recorded and later reported by the Los Angeles Times, that the individual's actions were "close to a spy" and: "You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now." This was an apparent reference to execution.[167][170] On September 30, Trump said "we're trying to find out" who the whistleblower was.[171]

On September 30, CNN, citing analysis by Laura Edelson at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering, reported that Trump and his reelection campaign had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook advertisements to push for his defense. More than 1,800 ads on Trump's Facebook page that mentioned "impeachment" had run the week prior, and had been viewed between 16–18 million times on Facebook. The analysis indicates that the campaign spent between $600,000 and $2 million on the ads, which reportedly attempted to rally and enlist people for the "Official Impeachment Defense Task Force". A further $700,000 is believed to have been spent for ads on Pence's Facebook page, which mirrored the content on Trump's.[172]

On October 3, with the impeachment inquiry ongoing, Trump told reporters that in addition to Ukraine, China should also investigate the Bidens.[173] Later in the day, Pence voiced his support for Trump's comments, saying, "I think the American people have a right to know if the vice president of the United States or his family profited from his position."[174] After Pence was requested to turn over related documents on October 4, his press secretary, Katie Waldman, criticized the request as a ploy.[175]

The White House officially responded to the impeachment proceedings in a letter from White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to House Speaker Pelosi that it would cease all cooperation with the investigation due to a litany of concerns, including that there had been no vote of the full House, and the secrecy of the proceedings. In the October 8 letter, the White House officially declined to cooperate with what they claimed was an illegitimate effort "to overturn the results of the 2016 election". The eight-page letter stated that the investigation "violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent". House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to the letter stating that "The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the president's abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction."[22][176][140][23][122]

In a press briefing on October 17, the White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney stated that the military aid to Ukraine was withheld in part to push the new government in Kyiv to explore unproven allegations against the Democratic National Committee and the 2016 election, undermining repeated denials by Trump of a quid pro quo.[177][178][179][180] After media reports of these comments circulated, Republicans joined Trump's aides and legal counsel in distancing themselves from his remarks.[181][182] Later that same day, Mulvaney issued a statement criticizing the media for their coverage of his comments and denying his earlier remarks, reiterating that there was "no quid pro quo" regarding the withheld aid and requests to investigate the Democrats' behavior during the 2016 election.[177][182][181]

Whistleblowers and their lawyers

Mark Zaid, co-counsel for the whistleblower, said in a statement in September 2019, that the individual's identity must be protected by law, and cited testimony by Maguire which drew upon the Whistleblower Protection Act. The statement was released after Trump questioned the validity of the whistleblower's statements on Twitter.[183] Another lawyer for the whistleblower took to Twitter to issue a warning on September 30, that the whistleblower is entitled to anonymity, is protected by laws and policies, and is not to be retaliated against; to do so would violate federal law.[167]

Andrew Bakaj, the lead attorney representing the whistleblowers, sent a joint letter to Maguire on September 28, and made public on September 29, in which they raised concerns about the language used by Trump, amongst other things. In the letter the lawyers state "The events of the past week have heightened our concerns that our client's identity will be disclosed publicly and that, as a result, our client will be put in harm's way." The letter also mentioned the $50,000 "bounty" that two conservative Trump supporters have offered as a "reward" for information about the whistleblower.[184]

Politicians

Trump's Republican allies are opposed to his impeachment. Senator Lindsey Graham criticized the whistleblower, calling the complaint hearsay and a sham.[185] Several Republican politicians including Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio and former Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who had been stout defenders of congressional oversight during the Obama Administration and the Investigation into the 2012 Benghazi, joined Trump's resistance to the investigation. Having left congress the previous year, Gowdy has also agreed to work for the President as his personal attorney.[186] A notable Republican critic of Trump is Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who called Trump's actions "troubling in the extreme" and "wrong and appalling". Romney said it strained credulity to say that Trump's actions were anything other than politically motivated.[187]

Phil Scott, the governor of Vermont,[188] became the first Republican governor to support the impeachment inquiry. Charlie Baker, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, also announced his support.[189] Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan later announced his support for an inquiry, though clarifying he did not yet support impeachment itself.[190]

On October 18, John Kasich, a former Ohio governor and a CNN political commentator since January 2019, publicly stated that President Trump should be impeached. Until this point, he had argued that there was not enough evidence to impeach the President.[191]

Media

The New York Times editorial board stated that Trump appeared to be "operating on the assumption that the more shameless his assault on democratic norms and laws, the more he can get away with".[192]

The Guardian released an editorial calling Trump an abuser of his office.[193] In response to the October 8 letter from the White House to Pelosi, an editorial in The New York Times said the letter argued that it was right for the president of the United States to use his office to seek a foreign government's interference on his behalf in an election — even by way of extortion. At the same time, the letter argued, it is illegitimate for Congress, a coequal branch of government, to undertake any investigation into the president or members of his administration, or even his associates regarding this behavior. The editorial additionally called the letter "a formal assertion of executive power and impunity without precedent in American history", noting that neither the constitution nor federal law proscribed the process for impeachment, and that therefore it was for the house to decide how to carry out the investigation.[194] The Washington Post editorial board called the letter "unhinged" and stated that Trump was asserting autocratic authority.[120]

Legal professionals and academics

A group of 17 former Watergate special prosecutors published an opinion piece in the Washington Post in unanimous agreement that the public record contained prima facie evidence that Trump had committed impeachable acts.[195]

Historians and diplomats called the severity of the allegations "unprecedented" in American history.[196]

Some academics responded to tweets by Trump in which he quoted a longtime evangelical pastor who warned of a "civil war" if Democrats continued the inquiry. On Twitter, Harvard Law School professor John Coates cautioned that the tweet was an independent basis for impeachment as the sitting President was threatening civil war if Congress exercised its constitutionally authorized power.[197] A fellow faculty member of Harvard Law, Laurence Tribe, agreed but cautioned that, due to the typical tone of Trump's tweets, the statement could be interpreted as "typical Trumpian bloviating" that would not be taken seriously or literally.[198]

Academic historian Kevin Kruse took issue with Trump's assertion that the Democrats would be solely responsible if he were removed from office through the impeachment process. Kruse said that for the U.S. Senate to remove Trump from office, 20 Republicans would need to join the 45 Democrats and two Independents, and blaming only the Democrats was both "dangerous" and "dumb".[197]

Axios interviewed legal and political experts about the prospect of Trump being impeached but is then acquitted by the Senate and goes on to win a second term in the 2020 election. They concluded that if that happens, it might be politically impossible to impeach him a second time because of the political blowback.[199]

Public opinion

Polling has indicated that Americans have begun to lean towards supporting the impeachment inquiry since October 2019.[200] On average, 52% of Americans support the inquiry.[201] Polling analysis by FiveThirtyEight states that, among the public, support for impeachment exists in the 80th percentile for Democrats, 10th percentile for Republicans, and 40th percentile for independents.[202] The New York Times correctly predicted the October shift in polling results.[200][203]

A YouGov poll on September 24, 2019, found that 55% would support impeachment and 26% would oppose if Trump was confirmed to have pressured the Ukrainian government,[204] a hypothetical scenario at the time that the Trump administration admitted to on October 17, 2019.[205] A Marist Poll for NPR and PBS around the same timeframe found that a 50–46 plurality approved of the House's decision to start an impeachment inquiry.[206]

A Politico / Morning Consult poll released shortly after Pelosi announced her support for the inquiry found support for impeachment increased seven percentage points compared to the poll of the previous week.[207] A Business Insider poll on September 27, found that 45% supported an impeachment inquiry while 30% opposed.[208] A September 30 Quinnipiac University poll found that 56 percent of those polled thought members of Congress who support impeaching President Trump are doing so more on the basis of partisan politics than on the basis of the facts.[209]

A poll by The Economist / YouGov from October 16, 2019, stated most Americans who support impeachment also support removals. In addition, it noted that a significant amount of Americans, 70% of Republicans, 38% of independents, and 13% of Democrats, believe a deep state is trying to obstruct or unseat President Trump.[210] An October 17, 2019 poll from the Pew Research Center found 54% in favor of impeachment and 44% opposed.[211]

Polling of support for the impeachment inquiry among Americans
Poll source Date(s) administered Sample size Margin of error Support[α] Oppose[α] Undecided
September 2019
Monmouth University[212] Sep 23–29 1161 ± 2.9% 49% 43% 7%
Politico / Morning Consult[213] Sep 24–26 1640[β] ± 2.0% 43% 43% 13%
NPR / PBS NewsHour / Marist[206] Sep 25 864 ± 4.6% 49% 46% 5%
Hill / HarrisX[214] Sep 26–27 1003[β] ± 3.1% 47% 42% 11%
CBS News / YouGov[215] Sep 26–27 2059 ± 2.3% 42% 36% 22%
Reuters / Ipsos[216] Sep 26–30 1917[β] ± 2.6% 45% 43% 12%
Quinnipiac University[217][209] Sep 27–29 1115[β] ± 3.6% 47% 47% 6%
Politico / Morning Consult[218] Sep 27–30 2488[β] ± 2.0% 46% 43% 11%
October 2019
USA Today / Ipsos[219] Oct 1–2 1006 ± 3.5% 45% 38% 17%
Washington Post / George Mason[220] Oct 1–6 1007 ± 3.5% 58% 38% 4%
Pew Research[221] Oct 1–13 3487 ± 2.2% 54% 44% -
NPR / PBS NewsHour / Marist[222] Oct 3–8 1123 ± 3.4% 52% 43% 5%
The Wall Street Journal / NBC News[223] Oct 4–6 800 ± 3.46% 55% 39% 6%
Fox News[224] Oct 6–8 1003[β] ± 3.0% 55% 40% 5%
Politico / Morning Consult[225] Oct 7–8 1991[β] ± 2.0% 50% 44% 6%
Quinnipiac University[226] Oct 11–13 1995[β] ± 3.5% 46% 48% 7%
Politico / Morning Consult[227] Oct 11–13 1993[β] ± 2% 50% 42% 8%
The Economist / YouGov[228] Oct 13–15 1136[β] ± 3% 53% 40% 8%
Reuters / Ipsos[229] Oct 14–15 961[β] ± 3.6% 44% 43% 12%
Polling of support for removal of Trump from office among Americans
Poll source Date(s) administered Sample size Margin of error Support[α] Oppose[α] Undecided
September 2019
Monmouth University[212] Sep 23–29 1161 ± 2.9% 44% 52% 5%
HuffPost/YouGov[230] Sep 24–26 1000 ± 3.2% 47% 39% 14%
CNN / SSRS[231] Sep 24–29 1009 ± 3.5% 47% 45% 8%
October 2019
Washington Post / George Mason[220] Oct 1–6 1007 ± 3.5% 49% 44% 7%
Gallup[232] Oct 1–13 1526 ± 3% 52% 46% 2%
NPR / PBS NewsHour / Marist[222] Oct 3–8 1123 ± 3.4% 48% 48% 4%
The Wall Street Journal / NBC News[223] Oct 4–6 800 ± 3.46% 43% 49% 8%
Fox News[224] Oct 6–8 1003[β] ± 3.0% 51% 44% 5%
Politico / Morning Consult[225] Oct 7–8 1991[β] ± 2.0% 50% 42% 7%
The Economist / YouGov[228] Oct 13–15 1136[β] ± 3% 53% 40% 7%
  1. ^ a b c d These polls are color-coded relative to the margin of error (×2 for spread). If the poll is a statistical tie, both colors are used. If the margin of error is, for example, 2.5, then the spread would be 5, so a 50% support / 45% oppose would be tied.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Polled registered voters.

See also

References

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External links