–US president says investigation launched by Democrats is ‘intended to take away the power of the people’
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump has ramped up his rhetoric on an impeachment inquiry by opposition politicians threatening his presidency, labelling it a “coup” designed to “take away the power of the people”.
Trump’s comments came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed to prevent or delay five former or current State Department staffers from testifying in the investigation probing accusations that the Republican president abused his office by seeking dirt from Ukraine on a 2020 election rival.
“As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP,” Trump tweeted late on Tuesday.
It is “intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!” he wrote.
“The Greatest Witch Hunt in the history of our Country!” the 73-year-old leader posted.
Last week, Democrats in the US House of Representatives launched an impeachment inquiry that centres around a July 25 phone call that Trump held with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In the call, Trump asked Zelensky to potentially open an investigation into the Republican president’s political rival, former vice president Joe Biden.
Trump has been using increasingly strong language to lash out at the Democrats and the inquiry, repeatedly referring to it as “a witch hunt”.
Over the weekend, he tweeted that if he were to be removed from office through a full impeachment process, that could lead to a “civil war,” a remark that drew concern even from the members of his Republican Party.
On Monday, Trump dubbed the whistle-blower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry as “fake,” and questioned if Democrat Adam Schiff, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, should be arrested for treason.
POMPEO WARNED AGAINST OBSTRUCTION:
Trump faces the possibility of becoming only the third president ever impeached by the US Congress, which could lead to his going on trial in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Pompeo accused three Democratic House committee heads conducting the impeachment inquiry of “an attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State”.
But Democrats said the top US diplomat was “stonewalling” the investigation and, according to media reports, scheduled interviews with at least two of the diplomats who had direct involvement in the Ukraine matter.
The first move of the three powerful House Democrats – Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee, Eliot Engel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Elijah Cummings of the Oversight Committee – was to subpoena Pompeo and Trump’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani for documents and to summon the five diplomats to testify.
“Secretary Pompeo was reportedly on the call when the President pressed Ukraine to smear his political opponent,” they said.
Pompeo’s letter suggested that the committees could be forced to subpoena the five diplomats, and that the State Department and White House could seek to limit what they could talk about.
“I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead,” Pompeo said.
But news reports said the State Department’s former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, would testify on Thursday and that the ex-ambassador to Kiev, Marie Yovanovitch, would appear behind closed doors on October 11.
The three committee heads warned Pompeo in a statement on Tuesday that any effort to prevent witnesses from speaking to them was “illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry”.
PHONE CALL TO AUSTRALIAN PM:
Separately on Monday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said that Trump recently asked the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other foreign leaders to help Attorney General William Barr with an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe that shadowed his administration for more than two years.
Morrison said on Wednesday that the phone call last month in which Trump sought help was brief and uneventful.
He said Australia had already committed to helping the DOJ when the inquiry was announced in May, and he could not recall “favour” being used during the call with Trump early in September.
“It was a very brief conversation, and it was not one that I would characterise as being ladled with pressure,” Morrison told Sky News in his first comments on the call, which was first reported by the New York Times this week.
Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections, wrapped up his report earlier this year, concluding that there was no evidence of a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.