WASHINGTON — House Democrats warned the Trump administration that any moves to block witnesses would be taken as obstruction of justice and used in their impeachment proceedings.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) fired back at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump, warning them not to try to block witnesses from testifying to Congress.
“If they are going to prevent witnesses from coming forward from testifying… that will create an adverse inference that those allegations are in fact correct,” Schiff warned during a press conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Wednesday morning.
Schiff said any attempts to “stonewall” Congress “will be considered further evidence of obstruction of justice.”
The comments come after Pompeo accused Schiff of trying to “bully” diplomats as he promised to deny the House access to witnesses they want to testify. But a current and former State Department official have subsequently agreed to testify, defying Pompeo: The State Department’s semi-independent inspector general has asked to come to Congress on Wednesday, and the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine plans to come as well.
Schiff also slammed Trump for seeking to find out who the whistleblower was who revealed Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s president.
“This is a blatant effort to intimidate witnesses. It’s an incitement to violence,” he warned.
Case for impeachment
Pelosi and Schiff used the press conference to lay out their rationale for impeachment and explain to Americans why they think Trump has broken the law.
Pelosi said Trump was “undermining our national security, undermining his oath of office,” and “undermining the integrity of our elections” by pushing Ukraine’s president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival.
Schiff was even more dire, warning that the framers of the U.S. constitution were most concerned about foreign interference in America’s affairs and would be disturbed by the president’s behavior.
“It’s hard to imagine a set of circumstances that would alarm the founders more than what’s on that call” with Ukraine, he said. “You have the president using the full power of his office to try to effectively coerce a foreign leader… to intervene in our election to help his campaign. It’s hard to imagine a more corrupt course of conduct."
Pelosi said the founders had put guardrails in the U.S. Constitution “because they knew there might be someone who would overplay his or her power.” But, he said, they “never thought they’d have a president who’d kick those guardrails over and disregard the Constitution.”
Trump rage-tweeted in response to the press conference.
Shortly afterwards, Trump used the Oval Office to attack Schiff.
“He should resign from office in disgrace and frankly they should look at him for treason,” Trump said, comparing Schiff to Pompeo by saying Schiff “couldn't carry his blank strap.” It seems that the “blank” was used instead of “jock.”
But Schiff and Pelosi were in no joking mood.
“We’re not fooling around here,” he declared.
Cover: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, D-CA, speak during a press conference in the House Studio of the US Capitol in Washington, DC on October 2, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)