A Primer on the Trump Impeachment Controversy
U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter again Friday to lash out at the media and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee as a formal impeachment inquiry moved forward in Congress over allegations Trump solicited Ukraine's president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential rival of Trump’s in the 2020 presidential election.
Trump's main target was Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California, who presided over Thursday's questioning of the acting director of national intelligence about the handling of a whistleblower complaint.
At the center of the complaint is a July 25, 2019, phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which the whistleblower alleges:
— Trump pressured Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who was at one time on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
— Trump suggested multiple times that Zelenskiy meet with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and U.S. Attorney General William Barr about the investigation.
— White House officials secured all records of the phone call in a separate electronic system used to store classified and sensitive information, a move denounced by Democrats as a cover-up.
Normally, such an "urgent" complaint would have been forwarded to congressional intelligence committees within three weeks. But the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, missed a Sept. 2 deadline, defying congressional demands for the document and a subpoena for his testimony.
Congress finally received the whistleblower complaint on Sept. 25. The next day, Maguire appeared before the House Intelligence Committee in a public hearing. He testified that he took the complaint to White House lawyers, then Justice Department lawyers, who advised it was not urgent enough to send to Congress. Maguire refused to acknowledge whether he spoke to Trump about the whistleblower's complaint.
Protected by law
Federal law protects government workers from retribution if they report wrongdoing by government officials. Such whistleblowers are granted anonymity for their protection.
Video has surfaced of Trump attacking the whistleblower's sources. Speaking at a closed-door event at the U.S. Mission to the U.N on Thursday, Trump described the sources as "close to a spy," suggesting it was an act of treason, punishable by death.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said she was concerned about Trump's remarks, promising that the impeachment committees would ensure there was no retaliation for people who came forward with information. She did not set out a timeline for the impeachment process, although she told MSNBC "it doesn't have to drag on."
Trump maintained he had a "perfect conversation" with his Ukrainian counterpart and was just trying to get his government to investigate corruption. The White House released a summary of Trump's phone call with Zelenskiy, which shows Trump raising the issue of investigating the Bidens. The call took place while U.S. military aid to Ukraine was suspended by Trump.