Trump den­i­grates U.S. diplo­mats

Pres­i­dent re­peated claims that Obama of­fi­cials spied on his cam­paign

The Peterborough Examiner - - CANADA & WORLD - DEB RIECH­MANN

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.

SU­SAN WALSH THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump con­tin­ued Friday to talk up de­bunked con­spir­acy the­o­ries that Ukraine in­ter­fered in the 2016 elec­tion.

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