In the expected party-line vote Tuesday evening, the House Intelligence Committee approved a report to the Judiciary Committee summarizing its findings from closed and public testimony about the president’s misconduct in pressuring the Ukrainian government to serve as his help-meet in the 2020 elections. While the report does not enumerate impeachable offenses or articulate articles of impeachment, it clearly does give Judiciary the material to draft at least two — and perhaps more — articles related to Trump’s behavior toward Ukraine (the infamous request of a quid pro quo for a “favor” on which a presidential meeting and appropriated military aid was implicitly made contingent) and toward Congress (the systematic obstruction of the impeachment inquiry via aggressive efforts to prevent access to documents and witnesses within the White House’s control).
As noted by the Washington Post, the report made no bones about Trump’s unsavory efforts to pressure Ukraine and its national security implications:
President Trump used the power of the Office of the President and exercised his authority over the executive branch, including his control of the instruments of the federal government, to apply increasing pressure on the President of Ukraine and the Ukrainian government to announce the politically-motivated investigations desired by President Trump …
By withholding vital military assistance and diplomatic support from a strategic foreign partner government engaged in an ongoing military conflict illegally instigated by Russia, President Trump compromised national security to advance his personal political interests.
Faced with the revelation of his actions, President Trump publicly and repeatedly persisted in urging foreign governments, including Ukraine and China, to investigate his political opponent. This continued solicitation of foreign interference in a U.S. election presents a clear and present danger that the President will continue to use the power of his office for his personal political gain.
The report makes it clear, moreover, that a wide range of administration figures knew what Trump was up to, as the Post summarizes it:
Pence. Mulvaney. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Former energy secretary Rick Perry. Senior White House aides. They’re all implicated in this report. They “had knowledge of, in some cases facilitated and furthered the President’s scheme, and withheld information about the scheme from the Congress and the American public,” Democrats write.
They rely heavily on the testimony from [Ambassador to the EU Gordon] Sondland, who was the closest Trump ally that Democrats got to testify. Sondland testified that as he negotiated political quid pro quos with Ukraine, he looped in all of these senior officials. He brought emails and text messages to his public hearing as proof.
In particular, Sondland stated his belief in a meeting with Pence that the release of military aid to Ukraine was tied to the Ukrainians announcing the launch of investigations. Sondland said Pence didn’t express his objections.
And in findings that are sure to have inflamed Intelligence Committee Republicans, the report also suggests ranking GOP member Devin Nunes was involved in Rudy Giuliani’s schemes to influence the Ukrainian government on Trump’s behalf.
Finally, more than 50 pages of the report deal with Trump’s obstruction of Congress via interference with testimony and documents, which it pointedly compares to behavior that led to draft articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon for similar behavior.
Republicans have already issued their own 123-page “prebuttal” to Schiff’s report, repeating the arguments they made throughout the Intelligence Committee hearings that Trump was just conscientiously fighting corruption in Ukraine, seeking to ensure the maximum bang for a buck in U.S. military assistance, and fighting an illegitimate impeachment inquiry by protecting executive privilege.
Though you can expect plenty of additional sniping at Schiff from Nunes, other congressional Republicans, and the president’s twitter account, the main venue for impeachment now shifts to Judiciary, where Jerrold Nadler begins hearings tomorrow on the constitutional requirements for impeachment and removal of a president. Within two weeks or so, House Democrats are likely to have settled on articles of impeachment, with Schiff’s handiwork forming the centerpiece. Then it will all get very real for Trump, his accusers, and his last-ditch defenders.