On Dec. 3, the House Intelligence Committee (HPSCI) released a full report on its impeachment investigation. The report now goes to the House Judiciary Committee – although its chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), already scheduled the first hearing for Dec. 4. So it appears the report is more for public consumption than anything else.
Prior to the report’s release, Republicans on the Intelligence Committee read it behind closed doors, and they released their 123-page rebuttal earlier in the day. Liberty Nation has posted both the full HPSCI report and the GOP rebuttal.
In their report, Republicans used witness testimony, statements by President Donald Trump and Ukrainian government officials, as well as media reports, to lay out their case that the HPSCI investigation yielded no proof that the president was guilty of the charges leveled against him.
Whose Foreign Policy?
The president’s allies on the Intelligence Committee additionally made the case that it is the president who commands authority over U.S. foreign policy. The many suggestions that Trump was conducting some sort of “shadow foreign policy” through “irregular” channels are legitimate only if one believes that the president has little or no official authority over foreign policy.
“To the extent that some unelected bureaucrats believed President Trump had established an ‘irregular’ foreign policy apparatus, it was because they were not a part of that apparatus,” the Republican report says. It expands upon the point that Democrats – and some of their impeachment witnesses – appear to believe that unelected officials, and not the president, have the final say on foreign policy decisions. By taking a direct role in shaping Ukraine policy, they allege, Trump somehow circumvented U.S. laws and meddled in matters over which he had no authority. The rebuttal goes on:
“Unelected officials and career bureaucrats assist in the execution of the laws. The unelected bureaucracy exists to serve the elected representatives of the American people. The Democrats’ impeachment narrative flips our system on its head in service of their political ambitions.”
No Concerns Over Trump-Zelensky Call
The Republican report points out that, despite the apparent misgivings of certain U.S. government officials, the National Security Council (NSC) had no concerns about what was said on the phone between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. Indeed, some of the witnesses called to testify before the Intelligence Committee (most with only secondhand knowledge of the phone call) were less concerned about the call’s content than about the prospect of the call being leaked and creating tension between the United States and Ukraine.
Doubtless, that is exactly why the transcript of the call was moved initially to a restricted server – despite Democrat claims that this was an attempt to conceal the contents of the call to protect Trump. Their theory, of course, was debunked when Trump took the unprecedented step of authorizing the public release of the transcript.
“Timothy Morrison, who served as the Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security, listened in on the conversation. He testified that he was concerned information from the call could leak, but he was not concerned that anything discussed on the call was illegal or improper.”
As the GOP report further notes: “LTG Keith Kellogg, Vice President Pence’s National Security Advisor, also listened in on the July 25 telephone conversation. LTG Kellogg stated that like Morrison: ‘I heard nothing wrong or improper on the call. I had and have no concerns.’”
At the center of this impeachment effort is a complaint about the call filed by a so-called whistleblower. In their rebuttal of the HPSCI report, Republicans dismantle – point by point – the claims made by this “whistleblower,” who did not listen in on the call but received one or more secondhand accounts of what was said between the two presidents.
The Foreign Assistance Issue
Democrats have charged that President Trump put a hold on aid to Ukraine until Zelensky agreed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. In fact – as the GOP report demonstrates – Ukraine was not the only country affected by a review of foreign aid. Trump always has been skeptical about providing assistance to foreign countries while those tax dollars could be put to use in the United States.
Republicans point to the testimony of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale regarding the matter of foreign aid:
“Well, [the foreign assistance review] had been going on for quite a while, and the concept, you know, the administration did not want to take a sort of, business-as-usual approach to foreign assistance, a feeling that once a country has received a certain assistance package, it’s a – it’s something that continues forever. It’s very difficult to end those programs and to make sure that we have a very rigorous measure of why we are providing the assistance.”
Another witness, National Security Council staffer Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, testified that this was not the first time aid to Ukraine had been held up. In fact, foreign aid often is held up and for a variety of reasons.
The Republican report on the Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry, wordy though it may be, is a fairly straightforward listing of all the known data points, demonstrating that the Democrats’ case against the president is based not on facts but suppositions, presumptions, and hearsay. It shows that Democrats have connected certain dots without proven connections between them.
Ultimately, both the HPSI report – the Democrats’ version of events – and the Republican rebuttal were written to influence public opinion and have little substantive effect on the impeachment effort as it goes forward.
On Dec. 4, the House Judiciary Committee takes up the baton as congressional Democrats move toward drawing up articles of impeachment. They might still opt for censure of the president, which would be a more prudent option but one fraught with danger, in terms of angering the extreme section of the Democratic voting base.
Read more from Graham J Noble.