Washington, United States | AFP | President Donald Trump attacked the Democratic lawmaker spearheading the impeachment inquiry on Monday as congressional committees subpoenaed his personal lawyer, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, for documents related to his dealings with Ukraine.
As Trump lashed out at Democratic congressman Adam Schiff, suggesting he should be arrested for “treason,” a new poll showed a growing number of Americans support removing the president from office for abuse of power.
Trump also attacked the whistleblower whose complaint about his phone call with the leader of Ukraine led to the opening of the impeachment probe in the Democratic-led House of Representatives.
“We are trying to find out about a whistleblower, when you have a whistleblower that reports things that were incorrect,” the president told reporters.
The whistleblower, reportedly a CIA officer, raised concerns in a report to his or her superiors about the July 25 phone call during which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his potential 2020 White House opponent Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Giuliani was at the center of the effort to get Ukraine to conduct a probe of the Bidens, who have not been officially accused of any wrongdoing.
Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and the chairmen of two other Democratic-led House committees issued a subpoena to Giuliani asking him to turn over Ukraine-related documents by October 15.
“The committees are investigating the extent to which President Trump jeopardized national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere with our 2020 election,” the chairmen said in a letter to Giuliani.
“Our inquiry includes an investigation of credible allegations that you acted as an agent of the President in a scheme to advance his personal political interests by abusing the power of the Office of the President,” they said.
Trump told reporters on Monday that the call with Zelensky was “perfect” and the whistleblower “reported a totally different statement.”
In fact, the rough transcript of the call released by the White House matched the whistleblower’s account.
– ‘Civil war’ –
Trump lashed out at Schiff for his depiction of the call during a congressional hearing last week.
Schiff opened the hearing with a parody imitation of Trump speaking like a mob boss to pressure Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.
“It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call,” Trump tweeted of Schiff’s remarks. “Arrest for Treason?”
Trump also raised eyebrows by retweeting comments made by a Baptist pastor, Robert Jeffress, to Fox News in which he warned of the dangers of “civil war” if the president was impeached.
“If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal,” Trump paraphrased Jeffress as saying.
That tweet by the president drew condemnation from at least one Republican lawmaker, Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
“I have visited nations ravaged by civil war,” Kinzinger tweeted. “@realDonaldTrump I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a President. This is beyond repugnant.”
The New York Times reported meanwhile that Trump asked Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help Attorney General Bill Barr gather information for an inquiry intended to discredit the Mueller investigation.
The Times said the White House restricted access to the transcript of the Trump-Morrison call in a manner similar to what was done with Trump’s call with Zelensky.
The Times said Trump called Morrison to enlist his help in the Justice Department’s review of the origins of the Mueller investigation — a probe that Trump has repeatedly denounced as a “political witch hunt.”
The original FBI probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election was launched after the bureau received a tip from Australian officials.
– More Americans favor impeachment –
A new poll meanwhile found that a growing number of Americans support impeachment of the 73-year-old real estate tycoon.
American voters were split 47-47 on impeaching and removing Trump, according to the Quinnipiac University survey, a significant shift from less than a week ago when 37 percent said he should be removed and 57 percent said he should not.
The Quinnipiac poll of 1,115 registered voters was conducted September 27-29 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
If Trump were impeached by a simple majority vote in the 435-member House, he would face a trial in the Republican-led Senate, where a two-thirds majority would be needed to convict and remove him from office.
Few Republican lawmakers have criticized Trump since the Ukraine scandal emerged, but former Republican senator Jeff Flake urged them on Monday to speak up.
“Trust me when I say that you can go elsewhere for a job,” Flake said. “But you cannot go elsewhere for a soul.”