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Trump Spars With Democrats as Impeachment Vote Nears


FILE - President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Dec. 10, 2019.

U.S. President Donald Trump, facing impeachment this week, sparred Monday with House Democrats who accused him of "multiple federal crimes" in the abuse of the presidency.

"The Impeachment Hoax is the greatest con job in the history of American politics!" Trump contended on Twitter. "The Fake News Media, and their partner, the Democrat Party, are working overtime to make life for the United Republican Party, and all it stands for, as difficult as possible!"

With the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives likely to impeach him Wednesday, Trump retweeted comments from Republican supporters ridiculing the allegations against him. Trump, the 45th U.S. president, would be the third American leader to be impeached in the 243-year history of the country, although his conviction by the Republican-majority Senate at a trial next month and removal from office remains highly unlikely. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News last week there was "zero chance" the president would be removed from office.

Trump's Twitter broadsides came as the House Judiciary Committee early Monday released a 658-page report detailing the allegations against him in two articles of impeachment. One accuses the president of abuse of power by soliciting Ukraine to investigate one of his chief 2020 Democratic challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden. The other charges him with obstruction of Congress by refusing to turn over thousands of documents to impeachment investigators and blocking key aides from testifying.

“Although President Trump’s actions need not rise to the level of a criminal violation to justify impeachment, his conduct here was criminal,” the panel’s Democrats contended. They described Trump’s behavior as “both constitutional and criminal in character,” including bribery and wire fraud. They argued that the president “betrayed the people of this nation” and should be removed from office.

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"He has abused his power in soliciting and pressuring a vulnerable foreign nation to corrupt the next United States presidential election by sabotaging a political opponent and endorsing a debunked conspiracy theory promoted by our adversary, Russia," the report said. "President Trump has done all this for his own personal gain, rather than for any legitimate reason, and has compromised our national security and democratic system in the process. After he was caught, President Trump defiantly insisted his conduct was 'perfect.'"

The report contended that Trump covered up his "own repeated misconduct" and sought to "nullify a vital constitutional safeguard vested solely in the House of Representatives."

"If President Trump is left unchecked, we will send an alarming message to future presidents," the report stated. "In word and deed, President Trump has sought to write the Impeachment Clause out of the Constitution."

Trump's White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham attacked the Democrats' arguments against Trump, saying, “Thankfully the people of this country continue to see the partisan sham that this is.”

The war of words between the White House and House Democrats came as the lead Senate Democrat, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, wrote to McConnell that Democrats want to hear testimony from four key Trump administration officials at Trump's trial who did not testify in the House inquiry controlled by Democrats.

Schumer said on Sunday the Senate should subpoena acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, top Mulvaney aide Robert Blair, as well as former National Security Adviser John Bolton and budget official Michael Duffey.

Schumer told reporters Monday, "We want to come up with a fair trial where the facts come out." He said the White House and Republicans should support calling the four officials as witnesses "unless they have something to hide."

McConnell, however, has said he will coordinate Trump's defense with the president's lawyers and the parameters of a Senate trial have yet to be decided.

McConnell has raised the prospect of a short trial with no witnesses called, ending with a Senate vote on Trump's fate after House impeachment managers present their case against Trump and the president's lawyers lay out his defense.

Trump has said he is agreeable to a short trial with no witnesses, but at other times has said he wants to hear testimony from the unnamed government whistleblower who first raised concerns about his late July request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and from his son, Hunter Biden, about his work for a Ukrainian natural gas company. The whistleblower is reported to be a former White House aide who now works at the Central Intelligence Agency.

Trump also asked Zelenskiy to investigate a debunked claim that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election Trump won to undermine his candidacy. But Schumer said the Senate trial should not be about "conspiracy theories."

A McConnell spokesman said the Republican leader would be meeting with Schumer to work out how to conduct Trump's impeachment trial.

Schumer also proposed in the letter the amount of time House members and White House lawyers would have for opening arguments, how much time senators would have to question them, and the amount of time allotted for witness testimony, closing arguments and deliberations before the 100-member Senate delivers its verdict.

"We believe this proposal...will allow for a trial in which all of the facts can be considered fully and fairly, and in which final votes can be taken within a reasonable period of time, without any unnecessary delay," Schumer wrote.

Trump spokeswoman Grisham called it "laughable" that Schumer, often a Trump antagonist, is calling for a fair trial.