House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Picture: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Picture: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS

Washington — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Donald Trump can make his case directly to the Intelligence Committee, but she vowed to protect the whistle-blower whose complaint triggered the impeachment inquiry of the president’s actions with Ukraine.

“The president could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants if he wants — if he wants to take the oath of office or he could do it in writing,” Pelosi said in a interview with CBS’s Face the Nation broadcast on Sunday. “He has every opportunity to present his case.”

Trump and Republicans in Congress have demanded that the whistle-blower be compelled to testify so that the president knows who made the accusations. Pelosi, in the interview recorded on Friday, ruled out any steps that would expose the person who filed the complaint.

“I will make sure he does not intimidate the whistle-blower,” the California Democrat said. “This is really important, especially when it comes to intelligence, that someone who would be courageous enough to point out truth to power and then through the filter of a Trump-appointed inspector general who found it of urgent concern … and then took it to the next steps.”

Pelosi headlined a group of Democratic and Republican legislators  who appeared on Sunday morning political shows to argue, respectively, that the case for impeachment against Trump is building or to defend the president and criticise the way Democrats are conducting the inquiry.

Republican Representative Mike Turner of Ohio said last week’s testimony from witnesses including William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, that connected the withholding of military aid to Ukraine in exchange for political investigations did not  implicate Trump.

“He offers nothing new — still no quid pro quo, still no smoking gun, still the same information,” Turner said.

‘Goes to die’

Democratic Representative Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, another member of the House intelligence panel, said  that evidence of impeachable offenses against Trump is building. He criticised Republican efforts to dismiss it as “it happens all the time” and “so what?”

“I’m telling you, ‘so what?’ is where our democracy goes to die,” Maloney said.

Maloney urged fellow committee member Chris Stewart, a Republican of Utah also appearing on ABC, to join him in calling for the state department to release all e-mails, notes, call records and calendar items that the committee has subpoenaed. Stewart replied, “You bet, because I don’t think there’s anything there at all that is going to implicate the president” — and that in return, the Democrats should call the whistle-blower and former vice-president Joe Biden to testify.

Republicans have said the fact that military aid to Ukraine was released without an investigation is proof Trump did nothing wrong, but Pelosi said the money was released after the whistle-blower complaint and “the whistle was blown”.

Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a vocal Trump ally, suggested on CBS that the aid was released after Trump and US officials spoke with newly elected Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and became convinced he “was legit and he was worth the risk” of US funding.

“So there was never this quid pro quo that the Democrats all promise existed,” Jordan said.

Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who had lobbied Trump to release the aid before a visit with Zelenskiy, said on NBC’s Meet the Press that he does not  think he will  be called to to testify because Democrats would  not ask Schiff to appear, as some Republicans are demanding.

Pelosi said the public phase of the House intelligence committee hearings would continue for another week, while additional depositions are taken from other witnesses. But she said she did not  know how long the hearings would continue.

Hearings resume

The schedule this week includes public testimony on Wednesday from Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who witnesses have said had a phone call with Trump they overheard, during which the president directly discussing Ukrainian investigations into Biden and his son and the 2016 presidential election.

Sondland will have to decide “whether his primary loyalty is to America or whether his primary loyalty is to president of the US”, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said.

Pelosi invoked the name of Richard Nixon, the Republican president who resigned in 1974 after a House committee approved articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress tied to the Watergate burglary two years earlier — during his re-election campaign. He quit before the House voted.

“It’s really a sad thing,” Pelosi said. “I mean, what the president did was so much worse than even what Richard Nixon did, that at some point Richard Nixon cared about the country enough to recognise that this could not continue.”

Bloomberg