U.S. President Donald Trump launched a new attack Sunday on this week's impeachment hearings that target him, calling them "disgraceful" and complaining that Democrats are blocking witnesses that Republicans want to question.
He said "corrupt politician" Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee leading the impeachment effort, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi want White House officials to testify in a "disgraceful Witch Hunt."
Yet he said on Twitter that Schiff "will not allow a White House lawyer, nor will he allow ANY of our requested witnesses. This is a first in due process and Congressional history!"
Under the impeachment hearing rules adopted by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, Trump will be able to have a lawyer representing him when the House Judiciary Committee considers possible articles of impeachment against him in the coming weeks and, if the full House impeaches him, at a trial in the Republican-majority Senate.
But the rules do not call for Trump legal representation at the House Intelligence Committee hearings that start Wednesday. Two U.S. State Department officials, William Taylor and George Kent, are set to testify that Trump pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open investigations to benefit him politically at a time he was withholding $391 million in U.S. military aid that Kyiv desperately wanted to help it fight pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country.
"The call to the Ukrainian President was PERFECT," Trump tweeted. "Read the Transcript! There was NOTHING said that was in any way wrong. Republicans, don’t be led into the fools trap of saying it was not perfect, but is not impeachable. No, it is much stronger than that. NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!"
Trump for weeks has denied his late July call with Zelenskiy amounted to a quid pro quo – the military aid in exchange for an investigation of one of his chief 2020 Democratic challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden's work for a Ukrainian natural gas company and a debunked theory about Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 U.S. election that Trump won. Trump released the military aid in September without Ukraine launching the investigations.
Schiff invited Republicans to submit a list of witnesses they want to question. But Schiff has rejected the two most prominent figures on the Republican wish list: Hunter Biden and the unnamed whistleblower who touched off the Democrats' impeachment effort by raising concerns about Trump's request to Zelenskiy in the July call.
Under U.S. law, the identity of inside-the-government whistleblowers alleging wrongdoing is protected from disclosure.
Trump, however, has urged that the whistleblower be named and says he should be able to confront his accuser. Democrats have voiced concerns about protecting the whistleblower's safety and note that much of what he alleged has been corroborated by government officials who heard Trump's call or were directed to push for the Ukraine investigation of the Bidens. In addition, a rough transcript of the Trump call with Zelenskiy released by the White House quoted Trump asking for "a favor" .
Schiff said calling in the whistleblower to testify would be "redundant and unnecessary."
"The committee ... will not facilitate efforts by President Trump and his allies in Congress to threaten, intimidate and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm," Schiff said in a letter to the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Congressman Devin Nunes. " ... The whistleblower has a right under laws championed by this committee to remain anonymous and to be protected from harm."
Schiff said that after weeks of behind-closed-doors testimony, his inquiry "has gathered an ever-growing body of evidence -- from witnesses and documents, including the president's own words in his July 25 call record -- that not only confirms but far exceeds the initial information in the whistleblower's complaint .... In light of the president's threats, the individual's appearance before us would only place their personal safety at grave risk."
Schiff said the public impeachment hearings "will not serve as vehicles" for what he called "sham investigations into the Bidens or debunked conspiracies about 2016 U.S. election interference that President Trump pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit."