US President Donald Trump has been accused of inciting violence and threatened with obstruction charges in the fast-escalating push for impeachment, as the President tweeted an expletive and called House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff a “fraud” and a “low-life”.
- House Democratic leaders warn the White House to expect a subpoena for documents
- Mr Trump again defends what he has called his “perfect” phone call with Mr Zelenskiy
- Mr Putin says he doesn’t mind if the details of his calls with Mr Trump are disclosed
Mr Schiff accused Mr Trump of inciting violence against a national security whistleblower and advised the President and his administration not to intimidate potential witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.
The whistleblower exposed a July phone call that Mr Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Mr Trump pressed for an investigation of Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his family.
Democrats say the pressure on Mr Zelenskiy, on its own, constitutes an abuse of power worthy of impeachment scrutiny.
“The President wants to make this all about the whistleblower and suggest people that come forward with evidence of his wrongdoing are somehow treasonous and should be treated as traitors and spies,” Mr Schiff said.
“This is a blatant effort to intimidate witnesses. It’s an incitement to violence.”
House Democratic leaders warned the White House to expect a subpoena for documents, accused the administration of “flagrant disregard” of previous requests and said that refusal could be considered an impeachable offence.
Tweeting a profanity during the House leaders’ news conference, Mr Trump said “the Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country”.
The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016, 223-306. Get a better candidate this time, you’ll need it!
Throwing criticism broadly, he assailed Mr Schiff as a “low-life” and said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco has turned into a “tent city” of homeless.
Congressman Adam Schiff should resign for the Crime of, after reading a transcript of my conversation with the President of Ukraine (it was perfect), fraudulently fabricating a statement of the President of the United States and reading it to Congress, as though mine! He is sick!
‘We’re not fooling around here’
Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi say they will move ahead in the impeachment inquiry. (AP: J Scott Applewhite)
In appearances in the Oval Office and a joint press conference with the President of Finland, Mr Trump displayed an unusual show of anger as he railed against the Democrats and the investigation into his dealings with Ukraine, defending what he has called his “perfect” phone call with Mr Zelenskiy.
He suggested, without evidence, that House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff may have committed treason, and, again without evidence, labelled Mr Biden and his son “stone-cold crooked”.
At one point, Mr Trump demanded that a reporter pressing him on his dealings with Ukraine move on.
“Ask the President of Finland a question, please,” he said, emphasising each word, eventually labelling the reporter “corrupt”.
Mr Trump declined to answer yes or no when asked if he would cooperate with the House to produce requested documents on Ukraine.
“Well, I always cooperate,” he said, though his administration has repeatedly stonewalled congressional investigations. “This is a hoax,” he added.
Mr Schiff said any effort to interfere with the Democrats’ investigations would be considered evidence of obstruction and could be included in articles of impeachment.
“We’re not fooling around here,” he said.
Putin says he doesn’t mind if calls disclosed
A whistleblower alleged in an August letter to the inspector-general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, that the White House tried to “lock down” Mr Trump’s July 25 phone call with the new Ukrainian President because it was worried about the contents being leaked to the public.
The complaint was eventually made public after acting Director of Intelligence Joseph Maguire withheld it from Congress for several weeks.
In recent days, it has been disclosed that the administration similarly tried to restrict information about Mr Trump’s calls with other foreign leaders, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, by moving memos onto a highly classified computer system.
In Russia, Mr Putin said scrutiny over the phone call showed that Mr Trump’s adversaries are using “every excuse” to attack him.
Mr Putin said he would not object to his phone calls with Mr Trump being published and that he always assumed his words could potentially be published whenever he speaks.
US Congress is determined to get access to Mr Trump’s calls with Mr Putin and other world leaders, the House intelligence committee’s chairman said on Sunday, citing concerns that the Republican President may have jeopardised national security.