U.S. President Donald Trump opened a new front on Saturday in the impeachment fight that threatens his presidency, attacking a senior party member for opposing his attempt to get foreign nations to investigate a leading Democratic rival.
The Republican president, who widened this week as an impeachment probe in Congress to launch an invective stream at Democrats and the media, tweeted that U.S. Senator Mitt Romney was one of them, a “pompous ‘ass’ who has been fighting me from the beginning.”
Romney, who lost the 2012 election to Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama, criticized Trump on Friday for asking China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
The Republican from Utah said that Trump appealed to China was “wrong and appalling.”
Trump said he heard in a later tweet that in 2018 people in Utah regretted electing Romney to the Senate. “I agree! He is a fool who is playing right into the hands of the Do Nothing Democrats! #IMPEACHMITTROMNEY,” Trump wrote.
Trump also defended the July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which prompted the impeachment hearings in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, as appropriate and said that his call for China to prosecute Biden and his son Hunter was related to bribery, not politics.
House Democrats are investigating whether there are grounds for impeaching Trump on the basis of a complaint from a whistleblower who said he was asking Zelenskiy to help probe the Bidens. For several years, Hunter Biden has been on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company.
There is no evidence that either the former vice president or his son has committed wrongdoing.
State Secretary Mike Pompeo, a Trump ally, said the State Department had issued an initial response to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s request for documents related to U.S. contacts with the Ukrainian government on Saturday. On Sept. 27, the panel issued a subpoena to Pompeo.
“The State Department sent a letter last night to Congress, which is our initial response to the document request. We will obviously do all the things we are required to by law,” Pompeo said at a news conference in Greece. He did not elaborate on the content of the letter.
In a statement to journalists, an official from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House said that Pompeo had “failed to meet the deadline to produce documents required by the subpoena,” Nevertheless, the State Department reported that it had approached the three House committees involved in the investigations.
“We hope the department will cooperate in full promptly,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Pompeo, who admitted listening to Trump and Zelenskiy’s call on July 25, objected last week to Democrats ‘ attempts to seek depositions from current and former officials in the department.
Asked at another event on Saturday if there were any red flags in the Ukraine saga that required further investigation, Pompeo said he did not think the audience was interested in hearing about the issue.”This is what’s wrong, when the world doesn’t focus on the things that are right, the things that matter, the things that impact real people’s lives and instead you get caught up in silly gotcha game?” he said.He also addressed a notion Trump has long held that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a theory that runs counter to the U.S. intelligence community’s findings that it was Russia that meddled in the campaign.
Pompeo said “governments have an obligation and indeed a duty to make sure that elections happen with integrity, without interference from any government, whether that’s the Ukrainian government or any other.”
Lawmakers are investigating how Trump has jeopardized national security for personal political benefit and the legitimacy of U.S. elections. Trump called the investigation into the impeachment a “hoax” and accused the press and democrats of corruption.
In a telephone interview on Saturday, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, told Reuters that the president had not given his Ukrainian counterpart any “quid pro quo” in the July 25 call for his co-operation with Biden and his son
“One thing clear about the conversation is, there’s no quid pro quo,” The former mayor of New York, who appeared in the controversy as a central figure, said. The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena to Giuliani setting a deadline of Oct. 15 for him to submit information on Trump’s behalf relating to his work with Ukrainians.
House Democrats on Friday applied to the White House for documents. Spokeswoman for the White House, Stephanie Grisham, said the subpoena “changes nothing” and that eventually it would be shown that Trump did nothing wrong.
The probe could lead to approval of articles of impeachment – or formal charges – against Trump in the House. A trial on whether to remove Trump from office would then be held in the Republican-controlled Senate.
A two-thirds majority of the senators present would be needed to oust Trump, which means 20 Republicans would have to jump ship if all the Democrats and the two independents who caucus with Democrats form a united front.
Although Trump’s Senate firewall has no visible cracks so far, Romney’s willingness to step out of formation and criticize Trump over his calls for foreign investigations of a political opponent could act as a catalyst for others.
Romney savaged Trump during the 2016 campaign, calling him a “con man” who was unfit for the presidency, but the two men later set aside their differences. Trump endorsed Romney’s political comeback last year.