WASHINGTON (Reuters) – If an investigation shows that U.S. President Donald Trump pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, then impeachment would be the only option, U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on Sunday.
Schiff had previously shied away from calling for impeachment, but his comments on CNN’s “State of the Union” indicate his stance has shifted.
“If the president is essentially withholding military aid at the same time that he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader to do something illicit, to provide dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy that is co-equal to the evil that conduct represents,” Schiff said.
Schiff told CNN on July 25 that the only way Trump would leave office is to be “voted out,” while encouraging Democrats to make sure voters go to the polls in 2020.
Other Democrats, including presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, and New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, have called for Democratic leadership to pursue impeachment immediately.
Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is at the center of an escalating battle in Washington. The Trump administration has refused to give Congress a whistleblower’s complaint about the call, in which Trump reportedly pressured Zelensky to investigate unsubstantiated allegations about Biden.
Trump told reporters on Sunday he had a great call with Zelensky and that he would have no problem with his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, testifying before Congress.
“I’m not looking to hurt Biden, but he did a very dishonest thing,” Trump said Sunday morning as he left Washington for a rally in Houston.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday said that Biden should be investigated if evidence shows he improperly intervened to protect his son from an investigation in Ukraine.
“I do think if Vice President Biden behaved inappropriately, if he was protecting his son and intervened with the Ukrainian leadership in a way that was corrupt. I do think we need to get to the bottom of that,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Congress needs to hear from the whistleblower. If the allegations are sustained, there would be an “open-and-shut” case for impeachment, he said.
Impeachment proceedings in Congress can lead to a president being removed from office, but Democrats would need support from Trump’s fellow Republicans who control the Senate.
“There is no chance of us persuading Senate Republicans in an impeachment trial,” Schiff said. “They have shown their willingness to carry the president’s baggage, no matter how soiled its contents.” Before Congressional Democrats move for impeachment, they need to “persuade the public that this is the right thing to do,” Schiff said.
The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets on Friday said Trump repeatedly asked Zelensky to investigate unsubstantiated charges that Biden, while vice president, threatened to withhold U.S. aid unless a prosecutor who was looking into a gas company in which Biden’s son was involved was fired.
Trump, reports said, urged Zelensky, a comedian who had just won election, to speak with his personal lawyer, Giuliani, who has promoted the allegations against Biden and his son and acknowledged that he pressed for a Ukrainian investigation.
Reporting by Nandita Bose, Sarah N. Lynch and Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Lisa Shumaker