US President Donald Trump waves as he leaves a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 22, 2019, in Washington, DC. Trump denied opposition charges of a "cover-up" related to the Russia election meddling probe, urging Democrats to end what he called "phony investigations." "I don't do cover-ups," Trump told a hastily arranged press event at the White House.
AFP/Jim Watson
Trump walks out on Democrats as impeachment talk heats up
Michael Mathes, Sebastian Smith (Agence France-Presse) - May 23, 2019 - 8:47am

WASHINGTON, United States — Donald Trump erupted in fury Wednesday at unrelenting probes into his links to Russia, as the top Democrat in Congress accused the president of a "cover-up" that could be an impeachable offense.

A livid Trump abruptly shut down a White House meeting with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, announcing he could not deal with them on policy until "phony investigations" are brought to a close.

The clash marked a dramatic escalation in Trump's war of words with congressional opponents seeking to bring him to account for what they say is presidential wrongdoing.

Trump's ire was seemingly triggered by House Speaker Pelosi, his nemesis in Congress, who declared following an emergency meeting with lawmakers earlier Wednesday: "We believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up."

"I don't do cover-ups," Trump shot back at a hastily arranged Rose Garden press event moments after the aborted White House talks.

"So get these phony investigations over with," Trump said -- warning a failure to do so would spell gridlock on issues like fixing the country's infrastructure, on which the two sides had hoped for a breakthrough Wednesday.

"You can't investigate and legislate simultaneously," he added. "It just doesn't work that way."

A two-year investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russia's interference in the 2016 US election concluded there was no hard evidence Trump's campaign colluded with Moscow. 

But the prosecutor said he could not rule clearly on whether Trump obstructed justice, leaving it to the Trump-appointed attorney general, Bill Barr, to declare there was no obstruction.

'Impeachable offense'

The Democrats' decision to pursue the grey areas of the investigation -- and their open discussion of whether to pursue the politically perilous process of impeachment -- has enraged Trump.

"PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!" he tweeted Wednesday, as he stepped up his attacks on the probes.

Any pretense of cooperation on policy evaporated as Trump and Pelosi locked horns, with the impeachment issue inching toward center stage in Washington.

Trump was visibly angry when he arrived at the meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, according to people familiar with what transpired. 

The president did not shake hands or sit down, and accused Pelosi of saying something "terrible."

But while it was Trump who threatened gridlock, Republican leaders sought to pin the blame on Democrats.

"Their obsession with impeaching this president is paralyzing any progress we could be making," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter.

Speaking after she left the White House, Pelosi doubled down, charging that Trump could have committed an impeachable offense by publicly refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas connected to Mueller's probe. 

She likened it to the "cover-up" that brought down former president Richard Nixon in the Watergate crisis.

"The fact is, in plain sight, in the public domain, this president is obstructing justice and he's engaged in a cover-up," she told a Washington conference. "And that could be an impeachable offense."

Pelosi's series of remarks Wednesday appeared to reflect the growing anger by Democrats at White House stonewalling, even as she has worked hard to tamp down talk of impeachment. 

A day earlier, Democrats were left seething when Trump's former lawyer Don McGahn, a key figure in the Mueller report, refused to testify about obstruction allegations against the president.

Goading Congress?

Democrats also argue that Barr is subverting congressional oversight powers in order to protect the president.

But on Wednesday, the House Intelligence Committee's chairman said the Justice Department had agreed to begin honoring a subpoena for material related to Mueller's probe.

Despite her accusation of a cover-up, Pelosi has been mindful of the politically-charged nature of an impeachment move ahead of a 2020 presidential election, especially one that is likely to fail in the Republican-led Senate.

She has argued in favor of keeping the focus on educating the public through the court process and congressional probes, rather than leaping to impeachment.

The issue has divided Democrats for months. Even as some in Congress -- and several Democratic presidential contenders -- are eager to assert its historical oversight powers as a check against the executive, there are concerns the tactic could backfire, energizing Trump's base ahead of the election.

"He's really trying to goad Congress into impeaching him," congressman Peter Welch, a member of Democratic leadership, told CNN. 

Pelosi and Schumer meanwhile offered their own scathing descriptions of Wednesday's heated scene.

Schumer called the meeting's dramatic cancellation "a pre-planned excuse" and said "what happened in the White House makes your jaw drop."

Likewise suggesting Trump manufactured the row to avoid committing to an enormously expensive infrastructure bill, Pelosi said: "I pray for the president of the United States." 

DEMOCRATS DONALD TRUMP IMPEACHMENT UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 2, 2019 - 5:03pm

The Justice Department says it has given House Republicans new classified information related to the Russia investigation after lawmakers had threatened to hold officials in contempt of Congress or even impeach them.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan says Saturday that the department has partially complied with subpoenas from the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees after officials turned over more than a thousand new documents this week.

House Republicans had given the Justice Department and FBI a Friday deadline for all documents, most of which are related to the origins of the FBI's Russia investigation and the handling of its probe into Democrat Hillary Clinton's emails. — AP

October 2, 2019 - 5:03pm

Australia's prime minister plays down the significance of a call from Donald Trump as "brief and uneventful", despite mounting controversy over a politically fraught offer to help the US president.

Scott Morrison says Trump had simply asked him to establish "a point of contact" within Australia's government for an investigation that the US president hopes will discredit findings that Russia helped his 2016 election campaign.

Morrison says he was "happy" to fulfil Trump's request on the basis that the country's ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, had already offered Australia's assistance in the investigation back in May. — AFP

September 28, 2019 - 5:37pm

The Washington Post reports that US President Donald Trump told Russia's foreign minister and ambassador that he was unconcerned about their country's interference in the 2016 elections.

Trump made the previously unreported comments during the same May 2017 Oval Office meeting in which he famously revealed highly classified information on the Islamic State group. 

During the conversation he reportedly told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that he was not bothered by their country's meddling because the United States did the same in other countries, according to three former officials who requested anonymity. — AFP

June 26, 2019 - 9:23am

US Special Counsel Robert Mueller has agreed to testify on July 17 on his report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees say.

"Robert Mueller has agreed to testify before Congress pursuant to subpoena," intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff announces on Twitter.

 

 

"Russia attacked our democracy to help Trump win. Trump welcomed and used that help. As Mueller said, that should concern every American. And now, every American will get to hear directly from Mueller." — AFP

May 25, 2019 - 12:05pm

President Donald Trump is defending his unprecedented decision to give his Justice Department chief unfettered access to the country's deepest foreign intelligence secrets amid an outcry from the spy community and a veiled warning from the US intelligence czar.

The president says Attorney General Bill Barr needed unilateral power to declassify any top secret material to get to the roots of the 2016-2018 investigation into whether his election campaign colluded with Russia. — AFP

May 24, 2019 - 4:07pm

US President Donald Trump has ordered the intelligence community to "fully cooperate" with an investigation into what he has termed "spying" on his 2016 election campaign.

The move comes with Trump under increasing pressure from probes led by Democratic lawmakers in Congress, some of whom are pushing for his impeachment.

According to Trump, court-approved surveillance of his campaign's links to Russians amounted to "spying." He has even called the probe treason and indicated he would like to see criminal charges brought against his investigators. — AFP

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