5 takeaways from the Democratic impeachment report
House Democrats on Tuesday released a 300-page report presenting what they call “overwhelming” evidence that President Donald Trump abused his official powers by pressuring Ukraine to help his reelection and then obstructed the inquiry into his actions.
The report, from the House Intelligence Committee, offered a compelling narrative of how Trump used the powers of his office to manipulate US foreign policy and how he tried to allegedly coerce the new Ukrainian president into announcing investigations that would benefit him politically.
Here are five takeaways from the report, which will be on full display in the coming days, as Democrats hold more public hearings about the findings of their investigation.
Critical phone records were subpoenaed
The Democratic report largely rehashed weeks of public testimony and private depositions from key witnesses. But there was at least one major surprise: House Democrats subpoenaed phone records and uncovered new details about how Trump’s allies coordinated their Ukraine efforts.
There was a “coordinated effort” by Trump’s allies to push “false narratives publicly,” the report said. The proof: Phone calls at key moments between the White House, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, indicted Ukrainian-American businessman Lev Parnas, conservative columnist John Solomon and Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.
The phone records are labeled in the report’s end notes as coming from AT&T, and markings in the report indicate that Democrats obtained the logs in September, before the public hearings.
“Like all companies, we are required by law to provide information to government and law enforcement agencies. In all cases, we ensure that requests for assistance are valid and that we act in compliance with the law,” said Jim Greer, a spokesman for AT&T, which owns CNN.
It’s unclear why Democrats didn’t showcase this information earlier in their investigation. But they might rely on the records as they move onto the next phase and an eventual Senate trial.
Democrats raise the stakes for Nunes
As revealed by the phone records, Nunes was closer to the Ukraine affair than he let on.
The report shed new light on Nunes’ ties to key players in the shadow campaign to pressure Ukraine. This includes phone calls between Nunes and Parnas, who has been charged with illegally funneling foreign donations to Republican lawmakers in 2018 (He pleaded not guilty).
“It is deeply concerning that at a time when the President of the United States was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival, that there may be evidence that there were members of Congress complicit in that activity,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee chair and California Democrat.
For Nunes, this puts him closer to a cast of characters that are under criminal investigation. The probe of Parnas and his associates is continuing, and federal investigators are also looking at Giuliani’s financial relationships to Parnas, and his overseas dealings in Ukraine and elsewhere.
Nunes rebuffed multiple requests for comment from CNN after the report was released.
The breadth of Trump’s alleged obstruction
In the report, Democrats outline what they see as efforts from the Trump administration to obstruct the impeachment inquiry through blocking witnesses from testifying, refusing to hand over documents and intimidating witnesses.
“The evidence of the President’s misconduct is overwhelming,” the report said, “and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress.”
Dozens of witnesses refused to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, following Trump’s directive, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. These were key players in several elements of the scandal, including the implementation of Trump’s freeze of much-needed US military aid for Ukraine.
The State Department, the Pentagon and the Department of Energy refused to comply with Democratic subpoenas for documents, emails and other relevant notes, the report noted. So did the White House and the Office of Management and Budget, which is part of the White House.
The report also accuses Trump of engaging “in a brazen effort to publicly attack and intimidate witnesses … raising grave concerns about potential violations of the federal obstruction statute.” This included public attacks against former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, the anonymous whistleblower, a senior aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and others.
Anything you say will be used against you
In many ways the report was an homage to Miranda rights, in which a suspect is warned by law enforcement that “anything you say can — and will — be used against you.”
Clearly, Trump and his allies did not heed this warning.
The report cites a series of public comments from Giuliani, including television interviews, comments to reporters and Twitter posts. Democrat used all of these comments to hammer Giuliani for “putting pressure on Ukraine to open investigations that would benefit his 2020 reelection campaign” and said they prove Giuliani was working for Trump’s personal benefit.
“We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” Giuliani told The New York Times of his exploits in Ukraine, which was cited in the report.
Democrats also highlighted Giuliani’s tweet that, “everything I did was to discover evidence to defend my client against false charges.” He has repeated this throughout the investigation.
Mulvaney’s words are also used in the report to support the notion that aid for Ukraine was tied to investigations. They referred to his watershed press conference in October, where he brazenly admitted the quid pro quo and said the press should “get over it.”
The report also points to Trump’s own words to lay out the case that he did, in fact, want Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. In the Trump-Zelensky call on July 25, Trump asked for “a favor” and went on to discuss the investigations into his political rivals, including the Bidens.
“The call record alone is stark evidence of misconduct,” the preface of the report said.
What about the whistleblower?
Throughout the reports, Democrats make reference to the whistleblower, who filed a complaint in August about Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, where he pressed Zelensky to launch investigations into his domestic political rivals.
But Democrats didn’t bring up the whistleblower to discuss that complaint, which is what untimely led to the impeachment inquiry in September. This stands in contrast to the report from House Republicans, released on Monday, which is filled with criticism for the whistleblower.
Democrats only mentioned the whistleblower to accuse Trump and others of obstruction.
In the first mention of the whistleblower, Democrats attack the acting director of national intelligence for taking “the unprecedented step of withholding the complaint from the Congressional Intelligence Committees,” in coordination with the White House.
The report devotes several sections to lay out how Trump allegedly “attack(ed)” and “threatened” the whistleblower by questioning their motives and publicly encouraging the press to reveal their identify. The whistleblower is legally protected from professional reprisals.