House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) released the Democrats’ report Tuesday on the impeachment inquiry, concluding that President Donald Trump “solicit[ed] foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.”
The report presents itself as the core fact-finding effort, though that function has traditionally been handled by the House Judiciary Committee, which will begin its own hearings on Wednesday.
The full report was initially unavailable on the House Intelligence Committee website, which was overloaded. However, the executive summary laid out the broad outlines of the Democrats’ case.
One part focuses on the substance of the allegations against the president; the other claims that he obstructed the committee’s investigation.
There is no mention of “bribery,” nor any crime except witness intimidation (see below). The report never spells out any precise grounds for impeachment, though it appears to argue that Trump abused his power. (As former Obama administration official Cass Sunstein wrote in 2017, “abuse of power” is an insufficient basis for impeachment, because it would apply to every president, all of whom arguably overstepped the bounds of their authority.)
In the first part of the report, Schiff and his committee use the term “political favor” to desribe President Trump’s request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he investigate possible interference in the 2016 election, as well as possible corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who was appointed to the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian company suspected of corrupt practices. The report appears to ignore the fact that Democrats’ own witnesses acknowledged that Ukraine “bet on the wrong horse” in 2016, and that the Obama administration itself had been concerned about Joe Biden’s self-evident conflict of interest.
The report claims that the first step in the president’s “scheme” involved removing U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, whom it describes as an “anti-corruption champion.” The report does not acknowledge that she had already lost the confidence of President Zelensky, or that she testified that she had done nothing to investigate Burisma’s alleged corruption, even though it was the only private company she had been briefed about in advance of her confirmation hearings.
The report goes on to describe the president’s “hand-picked agents” in sinister terms, even though most of these — particularly Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Special Representative Kurt Volker — were described in positive terms by the witnesses. The report implies that there was something wrong with the president conducting foreign policy through an “irregular channel,” though there is nothing in the Constitution preventing him from doing so, and some witnesses said it was not unusual or objectionable.
The Democrats’ report states, falsely, that President Trump halted “vital military assistance” to Ukraine. As several witnesses testified, the aid that was held did not include Javelin anti-tank missiles, which Ukraine considered most vital to its defense. And as nearly every witness also testified, President Trump provided lethal military aid — unlike President Barack Obama, who denied it.
The report claims that the president made a White House meeting conditional on the investigations he requested, even though several witnesses claimed otherwise, and the only witness to claim that “quid pro quo,” Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland, admitted that he never heard the president make that condition, and merely presumed it.
In one section, the report declares ominously, “The President’s Agents Pursued a ‘Drug Deal’.” That term was used by former National Security Adviser John Bolton — though as key Democrat witness Dr. Fiona Hill testified, Bolton had been using the term as “an ironic and sarcastic statement,” not a serious description of an actual negotiation.
The report goes on to declare that Trump “pressed” Zelensky to “do a political favor,” though Zelensky has repeatedly said that there was no pressure and no “quid pro quo” in his dealings with the Trump administration.
The Democrats also place great evidentiary weight on vague testimony that the Ukrainian embassy in Washington was aware of the hold on the aid, ignoring clear testimony from a variety of witnesses that the Ukrainians were not aware of the hold on U.S. aid until Politico reported it on August 28. And even then, according to several witnesses and the Ukrainian government, there was never any link between the hold on the aid and the investigations.
The report goes on to quote White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney — who did not testify — as having said in October that aid was conditioned on investigations. In fact, Mulvaney later clarified: “Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election.”
In the second part of the report, Democrats accuse Trump of obstructing the impeachment inquiry, without noting that it began without congressional authorization, was largely handled in closed-door sessions, and departed from well-established precedent by denying the White House legal representation.
Schiff’s report claims that the White House tried to stop witnesses from testifying, though there were several members of the administration who did so, and who testified that no one had told them not to. The report also accuses Trump of witness intimidation through public criticism of several witnesses, as well as tweets criticizing some of those who testified against him, including claims that they were “Never Trumpers.”
Republicans released their own dissenting report Monday. They were allowed to see the committee majority’s report on Monday evening — with a Democrat “minder,” behind closed door, in the Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF) in the basement of the U.S. capitol.
Following a vote in the committee, which will be along party lines, the Democrats will present their report to the House Judiciary Committee, which is to consider articles of impeachment against the president.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.
This article has been updated to include details from the full report.