U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday escalated his attacks against the Democratic lawmaker leading the impeachment inquiry against him, suggesting on Twitter that House intelligence committee chair Adam Schiff be arrested for “treason.”
The comment is likely to inflame criticism of Trump’s handling of the scandal engulfing his presidency, stemming from a telephone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son.
The telephone call was included in an intelligence officer’s whistleblower complaint that raised concerns about whether the president sought to leverage U.S. aid to Ukraine for a political favour.
“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?” Trump wrote in the tweet about the California representative.
Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?
The Republican president has increasingly lashed out at political opponents since House Democrats announced on Tuesday they would pursue an impeachment inquiry.
He likened the whistleblower and White House officials who gave information to the whistleblower to spies, and suggested they committed treason.
The inspector general for the director of national intelligence, Michael Atkinson, deemed the whistleblower complaint credible and urgent, while the top U.S. intelligence officer said the whistleblower acted in good faith.
The Intelligence committee is leading the inquiry in the Democratic-led House that could lead to approval of articles of impeachment against the Republican president and a subsequent trial in the Republican-led Senate on whether to remove Trump from office.
Schiff said on Sunday he expects the whistleblower to appear before the panel very soon.
House committees meet during recess
The U.S. Congress is on a two-week recess, but members of the intelligence committee will return to Washington this week to carry out an investigation that is likely to produce new subpoenas for documents and other material.
The committee is scheduled to hold a closed-door hearing on Friday with Atkinson.
House investigators are set to take the first witness testimony from two people mentioned in the whistleblower’s complaint.
On Wednesday, three House committees — intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight — are due to get a deposition from former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who Trump labelled “bad news” during his call with Zelensky.
On Thursday, the committees are set to get a deposition from Kurt Volker, who resigned last week as Trump’s special representative for Ukraine after the whistleblower complaint named him as one of two U.S. diplomats who followed up with Ukrainian officials a day after Trump’s call to Zelensky.
Some House Democrats said articles of impeachment against Trump could move to the House floor as soon as next month.
“In my mind, it’s several weeks,” Democratic judiciary committee member David Cicilline of Rhode Island told reporters last week. “He has already admitted that he contacted a foreign leader and discussed with him ginning up a fake story about one of his political opponents.”
Democratic Sen. Mazie Hizono reacts to Trump tweet
Every time <a href=”https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@realDonaldTrump</a> opens his mouth, the urgency of the impeachment inquiry becomes clearer.<br><br>- hurling false accusations of treason<br>- amplifying conspiracy theories<br>- intimidating a whistleblower<br><br>The President is so out of bounds, mere words of criticism don’t suffice.
Last Friday, the foreign affairs committee issued a subpoena to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for documents related to the Ukraine scandal. House Democrats also have sought material from the White House and Justice Department.
Schiff said any effort by Trump to stonewall the probe could be used to impeach him for obstructing Congress.
Ukraine unlikely to publish transcript
On Monday, Zelensky said Kyiv was unlikely to publish its version of a transcript of the July 25 phone call with Trump.
Speaking to journalists at an event at a military site near Ukraine’s capital on Monday, Zelensky said he felt it would be wrong to share the Ukrainian summary or transcript of the call.
“Prior to the presidency I was never a diplomat, but I think I have had many such conversations in my life and will have many more,” Zelensky said.
“There are certain nuances and things which I think it would be incorrect, even, to publish.”
Asked whether Kyiv would open an investigation into the claims against Joe Biden and his son Hunter, per Trump’s request, Zelensky said Kyiv would not act solely on the orders of other countries.
“We can’t be commanded to do anything. We are an independent country,” Zelensky said.
“We are open, we are ready to investigate [but] it has nothing to do with me. Our independent law enforcement agencies are ready to investigate any case in which the law was broken.”