The U.S. Congress is determined to get access to Donald Trump’s calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders, the U.S. House intelligence committee’s chairman said on Sunday, citing concerns the Republican President may have jeopardized national security.
“I think the paramount need here is to protect the national security of the United States and see whether in the conversations with other world leaders – and in particular with Putin – that the President was also undermining our security in a way that he thought would personally benefit his campaign,” Democrat Adam Schiff said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
The Democratic-led House last week launched an official impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump in the aftermath of a whistle-blower complaint from an individual within the U.S. intelligence community that Mr. Trump solicited interference by Ukraine in the 2020 election for his own political benefit.
The whistle-blower’s complaint cited a telephone call in which Mr. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation of former U.S. vice-president Joe Biden, a leader among Democratic candidates seeking to challenge Mr. Trump in 2020, and his son Hunter. Hunter Biden sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Mr. Trump, in a series of Twitter posts on Sunday evening, said he wanted to “meet” the whistle-blower, whom he called “my accuser,” as well as “the person who illegally gave this information” to the whistle-blower.
“Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President? Big Consequences!” wrote Mr. Trump, who added without providing evidence, “I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason.”
The CBS program 60 Minutes reported that the whistle-blower is under federal protection after receiving threats.
Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call came shortly after the United States froze nearly US$400-million in aid to Ukraine, prompting concern that the President was using the taxpayer money approved by Congress as leverage for his personal political gain.
The complaint said White House lawyers directed that an electronic summary of the call be moved from the place where such things are usually kept to a separate electronic system reserved for classified and especially sensitive material – a move Democrats have called part of a cover-up.
“If those conversations with Putin or with other world leaders are sequestered in that same electronic file that is meant for covert action, not meant for this, if there’s an effort to hide those and cover those up, yes we’re determined to find out,” Mr. Schiff said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Mr. Schiff did not say whether he plans to subpoena that information. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The intelligence committee has reached an agreement with the whistle-blower to appear before the panel, Mr. Schiff told ABC’s This Week. Mr. Schiff said he hoped the whistle-blower would appear very soon.
Mr. Schiff said Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, appeared to lay the foundation for Mr. Trump’s call to Mr. Zelensky through his efforts to encourage Ukrainian authorities to investigate the Bidens.
Mr. Schiff told ABC his committee would decide whether to have Mr. Giuliani testify after the investigation fleshes out details of his involvement.
Mr. Giuliani said on Sunday he would testify only with Mr. Trump’s approval.
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