House launches Trump impeachment inquiry
Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, stopped to talk to reporters after leaving the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, saying “there’s obviously some very troubling things here.”
He also roundly criticized the “partisan tribalism” coming from both parties and President Trump as opposed to a slow, deliberative approach.
Sasse said Democrats prematurely used the term “impeach” and said Republicans “ought not just circle the wagons.”
Read his full remarks:
"We need to slow down. This place is terrible at deliberation. Democrats ought not to be using the word 'impeach' before they had the whistleblower complaint or read any of the transcript. Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons and say there’s no there there when there’s obviously a lot that’s very troubling there. The administration ought not be attacking the whistleblower as some talking points suggest they plan to do. The media, humbly, should not pretend this story is, you know, about something that’s going to be resolved in the next two hours. Done right with lots of deliberation this going to take a long time but there’s obviously some very troubling things here. But I think the partisan tribalism that’s always insta-certain is a terrible idea. There are real troubling things here Republicans ought not just circle the wagons and Democrats ought not be using words like 'impeach' before they knew anything about the actual substance. The Senate intelligence committee actually does its work in a deliberative, slow and cautious way, and that’s what the Senate is supposed to do."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was "more worried about what happened" after reading the whistleblower complaint this afternoon.
Schumer made these comments after emerging from the Senate Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF.
"Having read the documents in there, I’m even more worried about what happened than I was when I read the memorandum of the conversation," the New York Democrat said.
Democrats reading the document say it backs up their commitment to their investigation. The move comes just hours after the White House released a rough transcript of a July 25 phone call that shows President Trump repeatedly pressed the leader of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
The conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is included in the whistleblower complaint, a source familiar with the situation said last week.
Trump has downplayed the significance of the complaint, claiming the whistleblower is partisan and his conversations with foreign leaders are "appropriate."
During a news conference in New York, the President claimed the individual — who has not been identified — "didn't have any first class or first rate or second tier information from what I understand."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he thought the Trump administration would only publish the US side of the call.
"You and I read that they want to publish. I just thought that they would publish their part," Zelensky told reporters today in New York.
Zelensky said he did not speak with President Trump before the release of the transcript from the July 25 call.
"I didn’t discuss it beforehand with Trump, we just shook hands yesterday," Zelensky said. "I’m not against it… If a legal permission is required, I just don't know the format."
Democratic Sen. Mike Quigley said he has reviewed the whistleblower complaint released this afternoon, calling it "deeply disturbing."
Quigley, speaking to CNN's Wolf Blitzer this evening, said the complaint is "extraordinarily detailed" and "very, very well done."
The Illinois senator went on to say that he thinks the complaint "reinforces the concerns that what we previously learned and I think it is a blueprint for what we still need to know."
"It lays out exactly what Congress needs to investigate," Quigley said.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters he prefers conversations with foreign leaders to remain private, but said he is "not afraid" if they become public.
He went on to say conversations might entail geopolitical topics and plans not intended for the public.
"Every person can say whatever they want, they are welcome to do so. I'm open. So they published this letter — please, [publish] all the calls. Although I personally think that such talks, such calls between the presidents of independent countries, between the president of the independent Ukraine should not be published. You know, there is geopolitics, there are plans ... But I'm not afraid of this," Zelensky said.
President Trump said the White House transcript that was released today was from the second call he had with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky and that he would release the first phone call.
Trump also addressed why he released the transcript from July 25:
"Because I was getting such fake news and I thought it would be better and now they're asking for the first phone conversation and I'll release that too if it is important to you. Because I had a conversation previous on a previous election plateau that he had hit. The current president hit a couple of different plateaus and I spoke to him previous to the call that we released," Trump said.
President Trump brought up Hillary Clinton and the 2016 presidential election when he was asked to explain why it is appropriate for an American president to ask a foreign leader for information about a political rival.
The reporter started by asking Trump to explain the appropriateness of that behavior and what he would have said if had discovered if former President Barack Obama had asked a foreign leader for information about him during a presidential campaign.
Trump started his answer by talking about a number of books about the subject.
"They've hurt this country very badly and no other president should have to go through what I've gone through," he said.
Trump then again denied any wrongdoing.
"I didn't do it. There was no quid pro quo. But there was with Biden and there was with these senators," he said.
Trump went on to talk about his polling numbers and the 2016 presidential election.
"If you go by the college, electoral college, that is a much different race than running popular vote. And it is like the hundred-yard dash or the mile. You train differently. And I can't help it that my opponent didn't go to Wisconsin and should have gone much more to Michigan and Pennsylvania and other places. But that is the way it is. We won an election convincingly," he said.
President Trump accused Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are focusing on "the witch hunt" because they "can't beat" Republicans in elections.
"With Nancy and Chuck, and all of these people focusing on the witch hunt, because they can't beat us at the ballot," Trump said. "They're not going to win the presidential — we have great polls."
Trump has repeatedly referred to the impeachment inquiry into him as a "witch hunt."
President Trump slammed Democrats for announcing the impeachment inquiry during the United Nations General Assembly as he was meeting with foreign leaders.
"And the Democrats did this hoax during the United Nations week. It was perfect," Trump said. "Because this way it takes away from the tremendous achievements that we’re taking care of doing that we’re involved in. In New York City at the United Nations”