Democrats Aim for a Fast and Focused Impeachment Inquiry Against President Trump

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is surrounded by reporters as she arrives to meet with her caucus the morning after declaring she will launch a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A crucial cache of evidence in hand, House Democrats moved quickly on Thursday with an impeachment inquiry they said would be focused tightly on President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, using an incendiary whistle-blower complaint as a road map for their investigation.

The complaint landed like a bombshell on Capitol Hill on Thursday morning after its release by the House Intelligence Committee, and Democrats quickly seized on its narrative of allegations against Mr. Trump — chock-full of potentially damning detail, intriguing threads and characters who could become witnesses in the nascent inquiry — as an outline for their work.

After months of plodding investigating to determine whether they had grounds to impeach Mr. Trump, Democrats were working feverishly to build a case on the Ukraine matter, with some lawmakers saying they could move within a month or six weeks, possibly drafting articles of impeachment by the end of October.

“This is a cover-up,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, who after months of resisting the move made it clear that she was determined to follow through with a formal impeachment inquiry.

She read aloud from a portion of the document describing an attempt by White House officials to quickly “lock down” records of a phone call in which Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. The complaint detailed charges that the president “is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election,” and that officials took pains to conceal evidence of that effort.

“We are at a different level of lawlessness that is clear to the American people,” Ms. Pelosi said.

The speaker said the growing impeachment case would be centered around the Ukraine matter and investigative action mostly lodged in the House Intelligence Committee, which first received and publicized the complaint.

The House Judiciary Committee, which has been leading the charge on impeachment for months, is now expected to temporarily idle the public components of its investigation of obstruction of justice and abuse of power. That inquiry focused on the findings of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel who investigated Russia’s election interference in 2016, and the president’s attempts to disrupt his work. Those topics could be resurrected if and when the committee drafts impeachment articles, however.

The Intelligence Committee was quickly lining up investigative targets. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Adam B. Schiff, the committee’s chairman, said that the complaint provided a clear “road map” for congressional investigators in the coming weeks and that his committee would work through Congress’s two-week recess that begins on Friday.

At the top of his agenda, he said, is interviewing the whistle-blower and another session with the inspector general, Michael Atkinson, to better understand what preliminary investigative work he had done before notifying Congress of the complaint. But there were numerous leads tucked into the complaint, and fresh questions about the role of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, and William P. Barr, the attorney general, in the matter.

“We need to look into the allegation that this may not be the only communication of a potentially corrupt character that was shielded by this classified information computer system abused for that purpose,” Mr. Schiff said.

“We want to know what role Rudy Giuliani had in all of this,” he added. “We want to know what role Bill Barr had in any of this. We want to know what Ukraine understood was expected of them before they even had this July phone call with the president of the United States.”

The complaint became public just minutes before the intelligence panel prepared to hear testimony from Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, on why he had delayed sharing it with Congress for nearly a month over the recommendation of the intelligence community’s inspector general. It was the second time in two days that their nascent impeachment inquiry had netted a significant tranche of potential evidence — a forceful reminder of the House’s newfound leverage after months of stonewalling from the White House.

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Source: ENM News