President Trump and his allies on Wednesday accused House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff of concealing an improper tip-off from the whistleblower who started an impeachment inquiry against the president.
“It shows that Schiff is a fraud,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference at the White House, asserting that the lawmaker learned some details of the whistleblower’s complaint before it was even written.
“It’s a scandal,” the president said. “I’d go a step further and say [Mr. Schiff] probably helped write it.”
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— Devin Nunes (@DevinNunes) October 2, 2019
“Schiff, House Intel Chairman, Got Early Account of Whistle-Blower’s Accusations”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2019
Mr. Trump and House Democratic leaders engaged in another day of trading angry accusations, as several House committees demanded documents from the administration and questions persisted over whether the State Department would allow employees to cooperate with the probe. The president even blamed the accelerating impeachment inquiry for a nearly 500-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
“All of this impeachment nonsense, which is going nowhere, is driving the Stock Market, and your 401K’s, down,” he tweeted. “But that is exactly what the Democrats want to do. They are willing to hurt the Country, with only the 2020 Election in mind!”
Mr. Schiff said Democrats have a “real sense of urgency” to impeach Mr. Trump, and they won’t stand for delays in getting the information they are seeking from the administration. He said the more obstruction they see, the more they’ll consider it an admission that the president did try to pressure the president of Ukraine in a July 25 phone call to investigate Democratic frontrunner Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.
Mr. Schiff suggested efforts to delay witnesses or documents from reaching Congress could itself become an argument for impeachment on obstruction.
“They will be strengthening the case on obstruction if they behave that way,” Mr. Schiff said. “Of course that was an article of impeachment against President Nixon.”
Mr. Trump said he will cooperate with requests and possible subpoenas from three House committees working on the impeachment inquiry, despite his outward contempt for the process.
“I alway cooperate,” Mr. Trump said. “This is a fraudulent crime on the American people, but we’ll work together with ‘Shifty Schiff’ and [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and all of them.”
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Currently, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the White House itself are facing subpoenas from House Democrats as the Ukraine allegations take center stage in their impeachment inquiry. Mr. Schiff’s threat came a day after Mr. Pompeo accused House Democrats of attempting to bully his officials and said they might not appear before the committees.
Several Trump-associated witnesses — including Attorney General William P. Barr, former White House counsel Don McGahn and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski — have refused to work with House Democrats, who are pressing them for answers.
Meanwhile, the State Department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, presented congressional staffers a packet of information containing what Sen. Bob Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, called “long debunked and false statements” addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with “The White House” listed as the address.
At least some of the information pertained to former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and the Biden family.
In a news conference at the Capitol, Mrs. Pelosi pledged a fair investigation, but both she and Mr. Schiff said they view the Ukraine phone conversation as evidence of wrongdoing.
“In that telephone call the president undermined our national security,” she said, noting that Mr. Trump had been withholding military aid to Ukraine at the time.
Said Mr. Schiff, “You have the president using the full power of his office to try to effectively coerce a foreign leader that is completely dependent on our country … to intervene in our election to help his campaign. It’s hard to imagine more corrupt conduct,” Mr. Schiff said.
The still-anonymous whistleblower who initiated the investigation approached a staffer on Mr. Schiff’s committee days before filing the complaint, The New York Times reported Wednesday. The paper said Mr. Schiff “learned about the outlines” of the complaint before it was filed.
Whistleblower attorney Mark Zaid said that neither the whistleblower nor his lawyers “has ever met or spoken with Congressman Schiff about this matter.”
But the news that Mr. Schiff had received an early heads-up about the matter emboldened the president and his allies, who said it was evidence of partisan motives at the least and possibly a rigged impeachment investigation.
“I think it’s a scandal that he knew before,” the president said. “That’s a big story. It’s a scam.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said Mr. Schiff “just got caught orchestrating with the whistleblower before the complaint was ever filed. Democrats have rigged this process from the start.”
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called it “a stunning indictment of this impeachment charade.”
“Who’s colluding now?” she tweeted.
Even before the fresh suggestion of partisan motivation by the whistleblower, the president renewed his call to uncover the identity of the government employee and to catch the “spy” or spies within the White House who fed information to the whistleblower.
Mr. Trump said the whistleblower fabricated details of the July 25 phone call “or the person giving the information to the whistleblower was dishonest.”
“This country has to find out who that person was, because that person’s a spy,” Mr. Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with the president of Finland, Sauli Niinistö.
Mr. Schiff said the president is trying to bully the unidentified person.
“This is a blatant effort to intimate witnesses,” he told reporters. “It’s an incitement to violence.”
As Mr. Trump held a news conference with Mr. Niinistö later in the ornate East Room of the White House, the Finnish leader offered an outsider’s perspective on the political turmoil roiling Washington. He marveled at his experience this week of visiting several museums on the National Mall and receiving an invitation to a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Turning to Mr. Trump, he said, “Mr. President, you have here a great democracy,” he said. “Keep it going on.”
Mr. Trump came back to his guest’s observation near the end of the press conference, in which he gave another combative defense of his actions and excoriated Democrats trying to impeach him.
“We are a great democracy,” Mr. Trump agreed. “I’m airing what I’m airing because we are a great democracy.”
• Jeff Mordock, Stephen Dinan and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.
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