Trump: Might aid a just in­quiry

‘Scam’ im­peach­ment un­fair to Repub­li­cans, pres­i­dent says

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Front Page - COM­PILED BY DEMO­CRAT-GAZETTE STAFF FROM WIRE REPORTS

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Wed­nes­day that he would con­sider co­op­er­at­ing with House Democrats’ in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his deal­ings with Ukraine, if Repub­li­cans “get a fair shake.”

On Tues­day, Trump’s lawyers sent a let­ter to House Demo­cratic lead­ers declar­ing a full halt to co­op­er­a­tion with what the ad­min­is­tra­tion termed an “il­le­git­i­mate” in­quiry, in part be­cause a for­mal vote has not taken place.

“The whole thing is a scam, it’s a fix,” Trump said Wed­nes­day of the in­quiry, pre­dict­ing that the fight could end up be­ing “a big Supreme Court case.”

Trump de­fended his de­ci­sion not to co­op­er­ate, call­ing a whistle­blower’s com­plaint about his July call with Ukraine’s leader “a fraud be­ing per­pe­trated on the Amer­i­can pub­lic” and say­ing Repub­li­cans are be­ing treated un­fairly. He re­peated he was be­ing vil­i­fied for “a per­fect phone call.”

But Trump said he might con­sider co­op­er­at­ing if there is a vote, but only “if Repub­li­cans,” who are a mi­nor­ity, “get a fair shake” and ad­di­tional subpoena power.

“We would [co­op­er­ate], if they give us our rights,” he said.

Trump’s com­ments came

as for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den made his most di­rect call yet for Trump’s im­peach­ment Wed­nes­day.

China, Bi­den said, “was the third for­eign power that we know of that [Trump] has asked in clear, un­mis­tak­able lan­guage to in­ter­vene on his be­half in the demo­cratic pro­ceed­ings of the United States,” the for­mer vice pres­i­dent said, re­fer­ring to pub­lic re­marks Trump made last week on the White House lawn.

“In full view of the Amer­i­can peo­ple, Don­ald Trump has vi­o­lated his oath of of­fice, be­trayed this na­tion and com­mit­ted im­peach­able acts. To pre­serve our Constituti­on, our democ­racy and our ba­sic in­tegrity, he should be im­peached,” Bi­den said.

Con­gres­sional Democrats are vow­ing to hold Trump ac­count­able for press­ing Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy this year to in­ves­ti­gate Bi­den and his son, Hunter Bi­den, at a time when U.S. mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine had been sus­pended.

Joe Bi­den told a crowd of about 100 peo­ple in New Hamp­shire that the move was an ef­fort by Trump to “smear” him in or­der to pick his own op­po­nent in 2020. The for­mer vice pres­i­dent said that nei­ther he nor his son did any­thing il­le­gal, but he did not of­fer a de­tailed de­fense of Hunter Bi­den’s ac­tions in Ukraine.

Trump took to Twit­ter to re­spond to Bi­den’s com­ments.

“So pa­thetic to see Sleepy Joe Bi­den, who with his son, Hunter, and to the detri­ment of the Amer­i­can Tax­payer, has ripped off at least two coun­tries for mil­lions of dol­lars, call­ing for my im­peach­ment — and I did noth­ing wrong,” Trump tweeted.

Hunter Bi­den served for nearly five years on the board of Burisma, Ukraine’s largest pri­vate gas com­pany, whose owner had ear­lier come un­der scru­tiny by Ukrainian pros­e­cu­tors over pos­si­ble abuse of power and un­law­ful en­rich­ment. The younger Bi­den was not ac­cused of any wrong­do­ing in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Burisma was dor­mant at the time that Joe Bi­den, act­ing as Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s point per­son on Ukraine, sought to have Vik­tor Shokin, the Ukrainian pros­e­cu­tor, ousted, ac­cord­ing to for­mer Ukrainian and U.S. of­fi­cials.

“All that de­fi­ance does is add to the case” against the pres­i­dent, in­clud­ing ob­struc­tion of Congress, said Vir­ginia Rep. Gerry Con­nolly, a Demo­crat who sits on the House Over­sight and For­eign Af­fairs pan­els. He said the White House strat­egy ac­tu­ally works to con­vince the pub­lic of the pres­i­dent’s guilt, cit­ing re­cent polls.

“The pub­lic gets what’s hap­pen­ing,” Con­nolly said.

But one Repub­li­can sen­a­tor said that while the pres­i­dent’s ac­tions have been in­ap­pro­pri­ate, im­peach­ment would be a mis­take.

“It’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate for the pres­i­dent to be talk­ing with for­eign govern­ments about in­ves­ti­gat­ing his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, but im­peach­ment would be a mis­take,” Sen. La­mar Alexan­der, R-Tenn., said in a writ­ten state­ment Wed­nes­day. “An elec­tion, which is just around the cor­ner, is the right way to de­cide who should be pres­i­dent. Im­peach­ment has never re­moved a pres­i­dent. It will only di­vide the coun­try fur­ther.”

Also Wed­nes­day, Trump’s per­sonal lawyer Jay Seku­low an­nounced that Trey Gowdy, the for­mer South Carolina con­gress­man, will join Trump’s le­gal team as an out­side ad­viser.

Gowdy, a for­mer pros­e­cu­tor who served four terms in the House be­fore re­sign­ing in Jan­uary, met with Trump for lunch Tues­day at the White House. He is ex­pected to be a pres­ence on tele­vi­sion de­fend­ing the pres­i­dent.

‘NOTH­ING TO SEE’

Sep­a­rately, U.S. diplo­mats who had pushed for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­store se­cu­rity fund­ing to Ukraine were ad­vised by the White House to play down the re­lease of the money when it was fi­nally ap­proved, doc­u­ments show.

“Keep mov­ing, peo­ple, noth­ing to see here …,” Brad Fre­den, the State Depart­ment’s act­ing deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary over­see­ing is­sues in Europe and Eura­sia, wrote in a Sept. 12 email ob­tained by The New York Times.

He said the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil would not pub­licly an­nounce that $141 mil­lion in State Depart­ment as­sis­tance was be­ing re­stored af­ter be­ing held up in what the White House de­scribed as a nor­mal re­view.

A se­ries of pre­vi­ously un­re­ported in­ter­nal State Depart­ment emails re­flect diplo­mats’ frus­tra­tion with the un­ex­pected freeze on fund­ing that Congress had al­ready ap­proved.

“We re­al­ize the strain this puts on posts and your abil­ity to con­clude grants and carry out pro­grams,” Jim Ku­likowski, the State Depart­ment’s re­gional as­sis­tance co­or­di­na­tor, wrote in an Aug. 5 email.

“We cur­rently await fur­ther guid­ance and will pro­vide you with an up­date as soon as we know about next steps,” Ku­likowski wrote in the mes­sage, which was sent to dozens of State Depart­ment em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing diplo­mats in Ukraine and in coun­tries across east­ern Europe.

The email did not ex­plain why the as­sis­tance was be­ing with­held.

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said the fund­ing had been frozen weeks ear­lier, be­fore the July 25 tele­phone call be­tween Trump and Ze­len­skiy. Dur­ing that call, Ze­len­skiy said he was grate­ful for the se­cu­rity as­sis­tance that the United States had supplied to Ukraine, and made clear that he hoped to re­ceive more.

A Ukrainian of­fi­cial has said Ze­len­skiy’s govern­ment did not learn of the fund­ing de­lay un­til about a month later. The White House has said the re­view merely sought to en­sure the money was prop­erly spent.

But the freeze ir­ri­tated diplo­mats who ques­tioned whether it was tied to Trump’s de­mands for Ukraine to in­ves­ti­gate the Bi­dens.

Once the de­ci­sion to freeze the aid be­came pub­lic in late Au­gust, a bi­par­ti­san group of law­mak­ers pressed the ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­verse course, say­ing that hold­ing up the money sent the wrong sig­nal as a new Ukrainian govern­ment con­fronted a con­tin­u­ing mil­i­tary threat from Rus­sia.

Of­fi­cials were in­formed that the freeze had been re­versed — and the $141 mil­lion in for­eign mil­i­tary fi­nanc­ing would be re­leased — in a Sept. 12 email from the White House that was then sent around the State Depart­ment.

Fre­den said the Ukrainian govern­ment had al­ready been told that the funds were forth­com­ing. But he urged State Depart­ment em­ploy­ees not to an­nounce the re­ver­sal.

“Ukraini­ans are aware, but NSC said that in the spirit of the ‘hold’ be­ing a nor­mal re­view, there will be no pub­lic an­nounce­ment that it has been lifted,” he wrote, re­fer­ring to the pres­i­dent’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

Some se­nior State Depart­ment of­fi­cials read­ily vol­un­teered in­for­ma­tion about the $141 mil­lion in aid as it was fi­nally ap­proved.

At a break­fast meet­ing with re­porters Sept. 12, R. Clarke Cooper, the as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for po­lit­i­cal mil­i­tary af­fairs, said that depart­ment of­fi­cials were no­ti­fy­ing law­mak­ers that morn­ing that the State Depart­ment’s por­tion of aid to Ukraine was mov­ing for­ward.

He told re­porters to an­tic­i­pate other no­ti­fi­ca­tions to Congress — specif­i­cally $250 mil­lion in mil­i­tary aid from the Pen­tagon, as­sis­tance that the De­fense Depart­ment an­nounced later in the day would also move ahead. Law­mak­ers from both par­ties quickly an­nounced the same day that the aid had been re­leased.

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Feli­cia Sonmez of The Wash­ing­ton Post; by Mary Clare Jalonick, Matthew Daly, Jon­athan Lemire, Lisa Mas­caro, Jill Colvin, Dar­lene Su­perville and Alan Fram of The As­so­ci­ated Press; and by Lara Jakes and Mag­gie Haber­man of The New York Times.

The New York Times/DOUG MILLS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Wed­nes­day that he would con­sider co­op­er­at­ing if House Repub­li­cans “get a fair shake” in the im­peach­ment in­quiry.

The New York Times/EL­IZ­A­BETH FRANTZ

Joe Bi­den said Wed­nes­day in Rochester, N.H., that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has “al­ready con­victed him­self” and called for im­peach­ment “to pre­serve our Constituti­on, our democ­racy and our ba­sic in­tegrity. More photos are avail­able at arkansason­line.com/1010cam­paign/

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