Donald Trump began his weekend in Washington by launching a tirade against Democrats, Republicans, the Ukraine whistleblower complaint and media organisations, as the impeachment probe that could unseat him dragged in his closest allies.
It has been a tumultuous week for the president with Congress stepping up its investigation by subpoenaing documents from a number of executive-branch officials, including secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence, the vice president. It has also requested files from the White House itself.
And while he has said he will formally object to the impeachment inquiry, Mr Trump acknowledged yesterday that the House of Representatives could easily vote for his removal before the issue is passed on to the senate.
Now, with his allies legally obliged to hand over documents and high-profile Republicans beginning to waver in their support, the president has lashed out wildly at his perceived enemies – starting with the press.
“The Media is ‘Fixed’ and Corrupt” the president tweeted on Saturday. “It bears no relationship to the truth. The New York Times and Washington Post are pure fiction. Totally dishonest reporting!”
The president’s comments were his first after The New York Times reported that a second intelligence official concerned by his dealings with Ukraine was considering lodging a complaint to run alongside the existing whistleblower statement, according to two sources briefed on the matter.
Meanwhile The Washington Post reported that text messages exchanged by Trump administration officials and Ukraine, made public yesterday, “read like a government-sanctioned shakedown” and that aides had been worried about the president’s calls with foreign leaders “for some time”.
Members of Congress have made Mr Trump’s request last summer that Ukraine should investigate Joe Biden the centrepiece of their impeachment probe.
It follows the whistleblower’s complaint which said that Mr Trump had sought to use military assistance for Ukraine as leverage to push the country’s new president Volodymyr Zelensky towards investigating the 2020 Democratic hopeful.
He made a related request of China, specifying Mr Biden and his son, Hunter, on Thursday.
The president went on to target Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff, arguing the so-called transcript of the call between himself and Mr Zelensky absolved him of any wrongdoing. What the White House released was in fact a memorandum of the conversation, not a transcript.
He added: “The so-called Whistleblower’s account of my perfect phone call is ‘way off,’ not even close. Schiff and Pelosi never thought I would release the transcript of the call. Got them by surprise, they got caught. This is a fraud against the American people!”
Later, Mr Trump quoted a Fox News contributor and said that ””Schiff is a FRAUD!””
Joseph Maguire, the acting Director of National Intelligence, has said the whistleblower’s account of the call was “in alignment” with the White House memo.
Mitt Romney, who had criticised his handling of Ukraine and China, was also lambasted by the President. Mr Romney, a former presidential candidate, said: “When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated.”
Mr Romney, who ran and lost against Democratic nominee Barack Obama in 2012, has maintained a position of respect within the Republican Party and a fractious relationship with its bombastic figurehead. He added: “By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”
Attacking the senator over his failed presidential campaign, Mr Trump tweeted at 9.58am Washington time: “Somebody please wake up Mitt Romney and tell him that my conversation with the Ukrainian President was a congenial and very appropriate one, and my statement on China pertained to corruption, not politics.
“If Mitt worked this hard on Obama, he could have won. Sadly, he choked!
“Mitt Romney never knew how to win. He is a pompous “ass” who has been fighting me from the beginning, except when he begged me for my endorsement for his Senate run (I gave it to him), and when he begged me to be Secretary of State (I didn’t give it to him). He is so bad for R’s!"
In a later follow up alongside the hastag "#IMPEACHROMNEY", he added: "I’m hearing that the Great People of Utah are considering their vote for their Pompous Senator, Mitt Romney, to be a big mistake. I agree! He is a fool who is playing right into the hands of the Do Nothing Democrats".
There is no mechanism in place to impeach a senator in the US.
Mr Trump has received support from Mr Pompeo, who dismissed questions about his boss’s phone call as a “silly gotcha game.”
“The president has every right to have these set of conversations,” Pompeo told reporters while travelling in Greece. He insisted the administration’s foreign efforts were necessary to target graft, ensure aid is spent properly and protect American democracy.
It is illegal to solicit campaign help from a foreign government.
However after taking aim at a range of political rivals he took aim at an old one - his 2016 presidential competitor Hilary Clinton.
"So Crooked Hillary Clinton can delete and acid wash 33,000 emails AFTER getting a Subpoena from the United States Congress", he tweeted, repeating a false claim he made during the election, "but I can’t make one totally appropriate telephone call to the President of Ukraine? Witch Hunt!"
While Ms Clinton did chose to delete personal emails kept on a server, this happened before any subpoena was issued.
Additional reporting by AP
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