Trump denigrates U.S. diplomats
President repeated claims that Obama officials spied on his campaign
WASHINGTON — Offering his own take on five long days of public hearings, U.S. President Donald Trump brushed off the impeachment inquiry as “total nonsense” on Friday and badmouthed a number of the U.S. diplomats who testified to Congress about his Ukraine pressure campaign.
In one breath, Trump said House Democrats looked like “fools” during the hearings. In another, he offered a window into his political strategy ahead of an expected House vote to impeach him. If that happens, the Senate would hold a trial on whether to oust him from office. “I think we had a tremendous week with the hoax,” Trump said.
At the same time, he talked up debunked conspiracy theories that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, speaking just one day after a former White House adviser testified that the claim was a “fictional narrative” that played into the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump also repeated claims that Obama administration officials spied on his campaign and underscored the need to keep Republicans unified against impeachment.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen support in the Republican party like we do right now,” he said.
In a phone interview on “Fox & Friends,” Trump said he did not expect to be impeached. But he added that if the House did vote to impeach him, he would welcome a trial in the Republican-led Senate. “Frankly, I want a trial,” he said.
A trial, he said, would give Republicans
a chance to question Rep. Adam Schiff, who led the hearings as chair of the House intelligence committee. Procedures for a Senate trial still are being worked out, but Republicans may well be hesitant to adopt Trump’s idea of turning a lawmaker into a witness.
“I want to see Adam Schiff testify about the whistleblower, who is a fake whistleblower,” the president said, adding that he knows the identity of the whistleblower whose formal complaint launched the impeachment inquiry.
Trump’s professed confidence came after impeachment witnesses testified under oath that the president withheld aid from Ukraine to press the country to investigate his political rivals. Trump insisted he was trying to root out corruption in the Eastern European nation when he held up nearly $400 million in military aid to help Ukraine battle Russian aggression.
“I think it’s very hard to impeach you when they have absolutely nothing,” Trump said.
He denied there was any quid pro quo, extortion or bribery. He also denied holding up a White House meeting or military aid to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch investigations of former vice-president Joe Biden and his son’s dealings in Ukraine.
Uncowed by witnesses who warned against playing into the Russians’ hands, Trump repeated a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukrainians might have hacked the Democratic National Committee’s network in 2016 and framed Russia for the crime.
“They gave the server to CrowdStrike, which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian,” Trump said. “I still want to see that server. The FBI has never gotten that server.”
Trump’s claim on Ukraine being behind the 2016 election interference has been discredited by intelligence agencies and his own advisers.
CrowdStrike, an internet security firm based in California, investigated the DNC hack in June 2016 and traced it to two groups of hackers connected to a Russian intelligence service — not Ukraine. The company’s cofounder Dmitri Alperovitch is a Russian-born U.S. citizen who immigrated as a child and graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Fiona Hill, a former Russia adviser on the White House National Security Council, admonished Republicans on Thursday for pushing unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
U.S. President Donald Trump continued Friday to talk up debunked conspiracy theories that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.