Off The Wire
Trump blasts censure idea as House panel readies impeachment report vote
LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Tuesday rejected the possibility of U.S. lawmakers censuring him instead of impeaching him over accusations he improperly pressured Ukraine to probe a political rival, as Democrats prepared to lay out their case for impeachment.
Trump, speaking at a wide-ranging news conference at a NATO summit in London, lashed out at Democrats in the House of Representatives who are leading the impeachment inquiry into the Ukraine matter and denounced the censure idea raised by some members of Congress as “unacceptable.”
The Democratic-controlled House Intelligence Committee, which has spearheaded the impeachment probe, is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. EST (2300 GMT) to vote on its findings. It is expected to release its report to the public after the vote, a congressional source said.
The matter will then go to the House Judiciary Committee, which will launch its proceedings on Wednesday.
The full House would then vote on the formal impeachment charges. If the House votes to impeach Trump, then a trial would be held in the Republican-led U.S. Senate.
So far, analysts doubt Trump’s fellow Republicans in the Senate would convict and remove him from power, although some lawmakers have raised the idea of a censure in recent days as a way to rebuke the president’s actions without the risk of removal from office.
“I did nothing wrong,” Trump said in London. “You don’t censure somebody when they did nothing wrong.”
Trump has accused Democrats of using the impeachment process to overturn the results of the 2016 presidential election as he seeks re-election next November. Opinion polls show Americans are bitterly divided over whether to impeach Trump.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, in an interview with MSNBC on Monday night, said the committee would continue its investigation after the release of its report on Tuesday and while the judiciary panel did its work.
Republicans, in an advance rebuttal report released on Monday, said Democrats had not established that Trump had committed an impeachable offense.
At issue is whether the Republican president misused the power of his office to pressure Kiev to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Lawmakers and the public have heard testimony from current and former officials that military aid was withheld from Ukraine and that a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was conditioned on Kiev probing Biden and his son Hunter as well as a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, the No. 3 State Department official, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday that he had seen no evidence that Ukraine - not Russia - interfered in the 2016 elections, undermining an argument used by Trump and some of his supporters.
An investigation by the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee also could not substantiate allegations of Ukraine’s interference, two congressional sources said on condition of anonymity.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary panel will hear from constitutional lawmakers as they decide whether to put forward the formal articles of impeachment. The White House, in a defiant response earlier this week, said it would not participate in the process, which it has described as unfair.
Senior administration officials have declined to testify in the House proceedings. Trump said on Tuesday that his top officials would testify in any trial in the Senate, where he said the process would be fair.
The president and other administration officials have criticized the timing of this week’s impeachment proceedings as Trump attends the summit overseas, although former Democratic President Bill Clinton also faced impeachment during a 1998 trip to Israel.
During the Clinton impeachment effort there was plenty of talk of the censure option, but it never went anywhere as some senators argued the U.S. Constitution did not provide for that sort of remedy.
In London, Trump repeated his defense that his calls with Zelenskiy, including one on July 25 in which he pushed for a probe of the Bidens, were “perfect” and that the impeachment inquiry was “a hoax.”
He also raised questions about his rivals’ patriotism, particularly as he traveled overseas and sought to negotiate on a range of issues, although he said he did not think it weakened his position while at the NATO summit.
“I think it’s very unpatriotic for the Democrats to put on a performance where they do that. I do. I think it’s a bad thing for our country,” Trump said.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who controls the chamber and is leading Democrats’ impeachment push, declined to discuss impeachment during her visit to Madrid for a climate summit this week, saying it was inappropriate to talk about such a domestic matter while abroad.
“We aren’t here to talk about impeachment of the president of the United States,” Pelosi said in response to a question.
Reporting by Steve Holland in London and Susan Heavey in Washington; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, David Morgan, Patricia Zengerle, Jonathan Landay and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Writing by Susan Heavey and Paul Simao; Editing by Jonathan Oatis