‘This is not a game for us. This is deadly serious. We’re on a path…’
(Liberty Headlines) As House Democrats’ frenzied impeachment probe pushed onward Wednesday, tempers flared during a White House briefing and the Senate GOP leader briefed colleagues on a possible Christmas impeachment trial.
Congressional leaders abruptly ended a highly-charged meeting with President Donald Trump on the situation in Syria, with Trump calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a “third-rate politician,” according to Democrats, and Pelosi saying the president was having a “meltdown.”
After Pelosi declared late Wednesday that she would not hold a formal vote to initiate the ongoing impeachment probe against Trump, prominent GOP leaders, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in a floor speech this week, began to push back over the unorthodox process.
Democratic leaders had been gauging support for a vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry while Trump and Republicans pushed them for a roll call. Holding a vote would test politically vulnerable Democrats in areas where the president is popular by forcing them to go on the record with their support for the partisan investigation.
Trump calls the impeachment inquiry an “illegitimate process” and is encouraging officials not to cooperate with the avalanche of congressional subpoenas being issued by the House Democrats.
But the current inquisition seems highly unlikely to taper off without Democrats having fulfilled their longtime objective of bringing charges against Trump.
“This is not a game for us,” Pelosi told reporters after a closed-door session late Tuesday with House Democrats. “This is deadly serious. We’re on a path that is taking us, a path to the truth.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, likewise tried to defuse skepticism over the Left’s political motives by insisting that he and his party members were not taking it lightly.
Schumer said he knows his House colleagues didn’t run for office to conduct an impeachment investigation, but he said, “The facts that are already in the public domain are so deeply troubling and must be taken very seriously.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meanwhile, warned of a possible House impeachment vote by Thanksgiving that would force a trial in the Senate, likely by Christmas. He used slides and history lessons during a private Senate GOP lunch in the Capitol to talk about the process, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
The day’s events, although interrupted by the explosive meeting at the White House, also churned out a parade of State Department witnesses who testified under subpoena in closed-door hearings with tight security.
Most sources who spoke to The Associated Press did so on condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to discuss the testimony.
Based on the accounts of those present and selectively cherry-picked leaks by House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the testimony included a range of perspectives regarding the actions of Trump, and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, toward Ukraine.
Only Democrats overseeing the committee hearings were empowered to call witnesses, which has led, unsurprisingly, to a chorus of criticism over the supreme chaos of the Trump administration’s foreign policy.
Some career bureaucrats also complained that the “drain the swamp” president and his surrogates had made them feel unwelcome and antagonized them.
Schiff has praised the State Department officials for stepping forward, under subpoena, to shed light on the matter.
“We have learned much of this thanks to the courageous testimony of the State Department officials who have been put in an impossible situation by the administration,” which is urging them not to comply with requests to testify to Congress, he said. “They are doing their duty.”
Even so, key witnesses have maintained—contrary to the so-called whistleblower complaint which sparked the House impeachment inquiry—that there was no clear evidence of a quid pro quo arrangement in Trump’s negotiations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
On Wednesday, Michael McKinley, a career foreign service officer and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo‘s de facto chief of staff, told investigators in a classified hearing that the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine were among the reasons he ended his 37-year career last week, according to multiple people familiar with the testimony.
McKinley decried the politicization of U.S. foreign policy, according to the people familiar with the testimony.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told reporters outside the closed-door hearing that McKinley was complimentary about Pompeo’s role but did raise other issues.
“I think most of this is a concern by a colleague for an ambassador that he held in high regard,” Meadows said, declining to provide more details of the closed session.
It was likely a reference to former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted in March on orders from Trump, amid suspicions that she was undermining the administration’s policies and engaging in partisan activities.
Another key figure in the impeachment investigation, special envoy Kurt Volker, returned to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to review the transcript of his Oct. 3 testimony to investigators, according to a person familiar with his appearance.
Volker provided text messages to lawmakers that revealed an effort at the State Department to push Ukraine’s leader into opening an investigation of the gas company Burisma, connected to the son of Trump’s potential 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden, in return for a visit with Trump.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press