House Democrats launch probe into whether Trump, Giuliani pressured Ukraine to target Biden

House Democrats are launching a broad investigation into whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE, his personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump lawyers offer defense of Giuliani on the Senate floor Giuliani: Bolton sacrificing his integrity 'to make a few bucks on a book' The Hill's Morning Report - Report of Bolton tell-all manuscript roils Trump defense MORE and others sought to exert pressure on the Ukrainian government to help Trump get reelected in 2020 by targeting a possible political opponent, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE.

Three House committees sent joint letters to White House and State Department demanding documents related to whether Trump and Giuliani sought to pressure Ukraine to target Biden, a 2020 Democratic White House hopeful.

ADVERTISEMENT

“A growing public record indicates that, for nearly two years, the President and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, appear to have acted outside legitimate law enforcement and diplomatic channels to coerce the Ukrainian government into pursuing two politically-motivated investigations under the guise of anti-corruption activity,” the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs panels wrote in a joint statement. 

“As the 2020 election draws closer, President Trump and his personal attorney appear to have increased pressure on the Ukrainian government and its justice system in service of President Trump’s reelection campaign, and the White House and the State Department may be abetting this scheme,” they continued.

Intelligence Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffRepublicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap Meadows: Republicans who break with Trump could face political repercussions Schiff: Senate cannot have 'meaningful trial' without Bolton MORE (D-Calif.), Oversight Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBaltimore unveils plaques for courthouse to be named after Elijah Cummings GOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts Pelosi taps Virginia Democrat for key post on economic panel MORE (D-Md.) and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelTrump to release Israeli-Palestinian peace plan on Tuesday US officials, world leaders arrive in Israel for World Holocaust Forum  House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't MORE (D-N.Y.) demanded documents related to these matters no later than September 16.

Biden's campaign on Monday responded with a statement that blasted Trump, accusing him of soliciting foreign interference as both a candidate and the president.

“Putting himself before his country, Donald Trump solicited foreign interference in the 2016 election.  His campaign’s leadership also met with a foreign national offering 'high level and sensitive information' as 'part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,'" Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said. "Now he is abusing the office of the presidency and jeopardizing national security aid to a key ally in order to pressure them to prop-up a comprehensively discredited conspiracy theory that The Washington Post editorial board has labeled 'bogus on its face.'"

Bates added, "This is beneath us as Americans, and it reinforces a truth that Trump and his allies have made patently clear for months: he is terrified of facing Joe Biden."  

The announcement of the probe comes after The Washington Post’s editorial board reported late last week that Trump is using $250 million in U.S. military aid as leverage to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into opening a corruption probe into Biden, who is currently seen as a front-runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Giuliani, according to reports, wants to see whether the former vice president’s diplomatic efforts in Ukraine had an improper influence in his son getting a role with a gas company in the country. Giuliani also reportedly pressed Andriy Yermak, a top Zelensky representative, to investigate whether Ukraine sought to hurt Trump’s campaign in 2016.

Giuliani told The New York Times in August that he was acting as a private citizen when he held phone calls and had an in-person meeting with Yermak. He has claimed that he was taking up the matter to help the country fight against corruption, but doing so highlights how Giuliani has inserted himself into international affairs and used his status as the president’s personal lawyer to help his boss politically.

“I can’t really evaluate that — whether my involvement in it makes it worse or better,” Giuliani told the Times in an interview last month, acknowledging that he “strongly urged” Yermak to “just investigate the darn things.”

“I can’t see how advocating for an investigation of two alleged crimes puts too much pressure on them, other than to do the right thing,” he added.

Yermak, Democrats note in their letter, has publicly stated that he was not sure "whether Mr. Giuliani was representing Mr. Trump in their talks.”  

Giuliani, who said the State Department was aware of his meetings with the Ukrainian representative, would not tell the Times whether the president signed off or knew about this latest effort.

CNN reported late last month that while the Pentagon reviewed the suspension of Ukraine’s military aid and recommended that it be lifted, the White House has continued to claim that such funds are under review.