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Democrats seek to tie Trump personally to Ukraine wrongdoing; GOP says impeachment case is 'crumbling'

Laura King, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Democratic lawmakers on Sunday laid out their road map heading into the second week of public impeachment hearings against President Trump: continue to bolster an abuse-of-power case against him by tying Trump directly to demands that a vulnerable ally carry out criminal investigations for the president's personal political benefit.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added a stern warning aimed specifically at Trump after weeks of furious presidential denunciation of the whistleblower whose complaint triggered the historic impeachment process.

"I will make sure he does not intimidate the whistleblower," the San Francisco Democrat said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation." Online and in remarks to reporters, the president has repeatedly urged that the confidential complainant be unmasked, coupling that with demands that he be allowed to "confront" his accuser.

In a seeming retort to that, Pelosi said Trump, who has ordered senior aides not to testify in the proceedings, "could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants."

Republicans, for their part, fanned out on the main Sunday news-talk shows with their own sometimes-mixed message, insisting that Trump was innocent of any wrongdoing, or at least had not engaged in impeachable behavior.

They also reprised the argument that Ukraine, while imperiled by Russia, suffered no real harm because it ultimately received nearly $400 million in military aid that the White House withheld for weeks while Ukrainian officials were under pressure to submit to Trump's demands.

 

"The bottom line is he got the money," Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the House minority whip, said on "Fox News Sunday," referring to Ukraine's President Vlodymyr Zelensky. Democrats say it was still wrong for the president to try to trade the aid for "a favor," and that the effort was only foiled when Congress learned of the aid being blocked and launched a bipartisan effort to free it up.

Other GOP defenders of the president struck an upbeat tone about the proceedings so far, despite damaging testimony suggesting that military aid to Ukraine was used by the White House to try to force Ukraine to dig up dirt on Trump's potential 2020 rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

"I don't think the evidence is building at all," Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on ABC's "This Week." Prefacing his assertion with "I'm being sincere on this," he declared: "I think the evidence is crumbling."

But Democrats expressed confidence that they were methodically establishing a pattern of wrongdoing on the part of those close to Trump, one that is leading closer to the president himself.

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