Trump-Putin telephone calls in Democrats’ sights - GulfToday

Trump-Putin telephone calls in Democrats’ sights

Trump-and-Putin

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin seen during a joint news conference in Helsinki, Finland. File / Reuters

The chairman of the US House Intelligence Committee said on Sunday Congress is determined to get access to President Donald Trump’s calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders, citing concerns he may have jeopardised 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.”

Following a whistleblower complaint that Trump, a Republican, solicited a political favour from Ukraine’s president that could help him get re-elected, the lawmakers are investigating concerns that Trump’s actions have jeopardized national security and the integrity of US elections.

“The intelligence committee has reached an agreement with the whistleblower to appear before the panel,” Schiff told ABC’s “This Week.”

Lawmakers were working out logistics to protect the person’s identity and also get security clearance for lawyers who will be representing the whistleblower. He hopes the whistleblower can appear very soon, Schiff said.

The whistleblower’s complaint cited a telephone call in which Trump asked President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Hunter Biden sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. Joe Biden is a leading candidate in the race to challenge Trump in the November 2020 presidential election.

The complaint said White House lawyers directed that an electronic summary of the call, which was released to the public on Wednesday, be moved from the place where such things are usually kept to a secret server reserved for covert matters.

“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,” Schiff said on NBC.

Meanwhile, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Saturday that public opinion is now on the side of an impeachment inquiry against Trump following the release of new information about his conversations with Zelenskiy.

Pelosi this week announced her support for an investigation after the surfacing of a whistleblower complaint that said Trump appeared to solicit a political favor from Ukraine’s president aimed at helping him be re-elected next year.

Pelosi for months took a cautious approach in weighing the calls of other Democratic House members to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump, which grew louder after former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified on July 24 about his probe of Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“In the public, the tide has completely changed; it could change now - who knows - but right now after seeing the complaint and the IG (Inspector General) report and the cavalier attitude the administration had towards it, the American people are coming to a different decision,” Pelosi said at a journalism event hosted by the Texas Tribune news website.

She added that her resistance to holding an impeachment inquiry quickly evolved from urging that fellow Democrats remain cautious of the political fallout ahead of next year’s elections to full steam ahead as details emerged of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine’s leader.

“A president of the United States would withhold military assistance paid for by taxpayers to shake down the leader of another country unless he did him a political favor - that is so, so clear,” Pelso said.

In a July 25 telephone call between Trump and Zelenskiy, the US leader asked his counterpart to launch an investigation of Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Both Bidens have denied any wrongdoing.

Trump has blasted the impeachment inquiry, arguing that he did nothing wrong and accusing Democrats of launching a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

Agencies

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