House Impeachment Committee Says Trump Abused His Office

House Impeachment Committee Says Trump Abused His Office

WASHINGTON—A Democratic-controlled House committee approved a report accusing President Trump of soliciting foreign election interference and placing “his own personal and political interests above the national interests” by pushing Ukraine to announce an investigation into a 2020 political rival.

Mr. Trump and other officials pressured Kyiv to announce probes into Democrat

Joe Biden

and into a theory that Ukraine’s government interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections, even though a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of any systematic effort by Ukraine to interfere. The House report alleged that Mr. Trump made the Ukrainian president’s request for a White House visit and military aid contingent on Ukraine’s announcement of those probes.

Mr. Trump has denied any wrongdoing or improper exchange of favors related to the investigations he sought. The Republican president has said that a July 25 phone call he had with Ukraine’s president in which he asked for the probes was “perfect.” That call was the event that sparked a whistleblower complaint that led to the inquiry.

The report, circulated hours before the Intelligence Committee approved it with a 13-9 vote along party lines, also alleged that Mr. Trump “engaged in categorical and unprecedented obstruction in order to cover up his misconduct.”

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The report’s approval marked a significant step in the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. The matter was referred to the Judiciary Committee, which is overseen by

Rep. Jerrold Nadler

(D., N.Y.) and is scheduled to hold its first hearing Wednesday.

The Judiciary Committee is responsible for determining whether the allegations against the president constitute grounds for impeachment; if so, the panel would draft articles of impeachment that would eventually be presented to the full House for approval. If the House impeaches Mr. Trump, he would face a trial in the Senate.

With partisan lines drawn very sharply, politicians in both parties widely believe that the Democratic-controlled House has the votes to impeach the president, but expect that a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate wouldn’t lead to the president’s removal from office.

White House spokeswoman

Stephanie Grisham

called the impeachment inquiry a “one-sided sham process” in which Democrats and Rep.

Adam Schiff,

chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had “utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump.”

“Chairman Schiff’s report reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing,” Ms. Grisham said.

On Monday, House Republicans issued their own report on the inquiry, saying the Democrats had failed to prove the president pressured Ukraine to benefit his 2020 re-election bid and calling his hold on the aid and a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president “entirely prudent.”

The report’s release follows weeks of investigation by the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, including testimony from 17 witnesses from across the federal government. According to the panels’ Democrats, Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president was part of a broader pressure campaign against a country dependent on the U.S. in its resistance to Russian aggression. The report alleges that top U.S. officials, including Vice President

Mike Pence

and Secretary of State

Mike Pompeo,

were complicit in that effort.

“This telephone call was neither the start nor the end of President Trump’s efforts to bend U.S. foreign policy for his personal gain,” the report asserted. “It was a dramatic crescendo within a months-long campaign driven by President Trump” in which Messrs. Pence and Pompeo as well as acting chief of staff

Mick Mulvaney

and Energy Secretary Rick Perry “were either knowledgeable of or active participants in an effort to extract from a foreign nation the personal political benefits sought by the President,” the report said.

A spokesman for Mr. Pence denied any wrongdoing. Spokespeople for Messrs. Pompeo and Mulvaney didn’t respond to a request to comment. A spokesperson for Mr. Perry couldn’t be reached.

Impeachment witnesses Fiona Hill and David Holmes testified about the involvement of the president and top administration officials in events central to the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday reports. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

The Democrats’ 300-page report primarily consists of information that has already been made public during their inquiry. But it also includes previously undisclosed records of calls between figures including

Rep. Devin Nunes

(R., Calif.), the ranking minority member of the House Intelligence Committee that has led the impeachment probe;

Rudy Giuliani,

Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer; and

Lev Parnas,

an associate who helped Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to investigate Mr. Biden and his son, and who has been indicted on campaign-finance charges.

The phone records suggest Mr. Giuliani’s deep involvement in several key episodes that have become a focus of the impeachment probe. The frequent contacts between Mr. Nunes and two figures at the center of the inquiry—Messrs. Giuliani and Parnas—are unusual and likely to renew Democrats’ calls for Mr. Nunes to face an ethics investigation.

A lawyer for Mr.

Parnas

said his client’s conversations with Mr. Nunes in April were focused on corruption probes in Ukraine. By that point, Mr. Parnas had for months been helping Mr. Giuliani push Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and alleged interference by Ukraine in the 2016 U.S. election—the effort that set off the impeachment inquiry.

In their calls, one of which lasted more than eight minutes, Messrs. Parnas and Nunes discussed investigations into corruption in Ukraine, according to

Ed MacMahon,

a lawyer for Mr. Parnas.

“They weren’t talking about where to find sushi in Kyiv,” Mr. MacMahon said. He added, “Lev is in a position to fill in all these blanks and explain what actually happened with all these phone calls. But he remains under indictment in the Southern District of New York, and he needs protections to tell his story. He needs immunity.”

Mr. Parnas in 2018 helped set up meetings in Europe for investigators working for Mr. Nunes, who were looking into corruption in Ukraine, Mr. MacMahon said, without specifying what the investigators were examining. Before the impeachment inquiry began, Mr. Nunes had tweeted allegations that Ukraine sought to aid Democrats in the 2016 election.

The report prepared by the House Intelligence Committee said the president made a White House visit and military aid contingent on Ukraine’s announcement of probes that could benefit him.


Photo:

Jon Elswick/Associated Press

Mr. Nunes declined to comment on the substance of his calls with Mr. Parnas or on how impeachment investigators obtained his call records.

Impeachment investigators also obtained copies of retainer agreements between

Victoria Toensing

and

Joseph diGenova,

two lawyers close to Mr. Giuliani and to the president, and current and former Ukrainian prosecutors. Ms. Toensing signed contracts on April 12 agreeing to represent

Yuriy Lutsenko,

then the Ukrainian prosecutor general, and

Kostiantyn Kulyk,

a Ukrainian prosecutor, in meetings with U.S. officials about alleged “evidence” of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, the report said.

On April 15, Ms. Toensing signed an agreement to represent Ukraine’s former prosecutor general,

Viktor Shokin,

“for the purpose of collecting evidence regarding his March 2016 firing as prosecutor general of Ukraine and the role of Vice President Biden in such firing, and presenting such evidence to U.S. and foreign authorities.”

Mark Corallo,

a spokesman for Ms. Toensing and Mr. diGenova, confirmed to The Wall Street Journal last week that his clients had represented Mr. Lutsenko, and said the other names were “attorney-client privileged.”

Mr. Giuliani told the Journal in an interview that Mr. Lutsenko had asked him to represent him, but that he turned down the case after drafting retainer agreements.

The Senate is already preparing for Mr. Trump to be impeached and planning for a trial. Senate Majority Leader

Mitch McConnell

(R., Ky.) on Tuesday raised the possibility that the trial would be conducted on a partisan basis, saying he might turn to his own conference to set rules if he can’t reach agreement with Senate Minority Leader

Chuck Schumer

(D., N.Y.) on procedures.

“Obviously, the first thing Sen. Schumer and I will do is see if there’s a possibility of agreement on the procedure,” Mr. McConnell said. “That failing, I would probably come back to my own members and say OK, can 51 of us agree how we’re going to handle this?”

Write to Siobhan Hughes at siobhan.hughes@wsj.com and Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

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