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Pelosi invites Trump to 'present his case' before lawmakers

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will protect

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will protect the anonymity of the whistleblower. Credit: AP / J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON — As President Donald Trump and House Republicans continued to assail the House impeachment inquiry hearings on Sunday, ahead of a second week of public proceedings, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted the president “has every opportunity to present his case” before lawmakers.

Pelosi, appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” addressed Trump’s long-standing complaint that he has not been allowed to confront the U.S. intelligence whistleblower, whose complaint launched the congressional inquiry into Trump’s dealings surrounding Ukraine.

The California Democrat said she would work to protect the anonymity of the whistleblower, adding that “the president could come right before the [House Intelligence] committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants — if he wants.”

“If he wants to take the oath of office or he could do it in writing, he has every opportunity to present his case,” Pelosi told host Margaret Brennan.

Trump on Twitter spent the day retweeting posts from his GOP supporters speaking out against the impeachment inquiry hearings, and deriding what he called a “Fake Impeachment.”

On the Sunday political talk shows, Democrats argued that the first week of public hearings featuring the testimonies of top diplomats to Ukraine — George Kent, William Taylor and Marie Yovanovitch — presented a damning case of the president’s efforts to suspend $400 million in U.S. military aid from Ukraine as he pressed the country’s newly elected leader to open an investigation into his political rivals. Republicans questioned the legitimacy of last week’s testimony, noting that the top ranking officials never had direct contact with Trump.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” took aim at the whistleblower, arguing that the individual’s August complaint to the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence agencies “exposed things that didn’t need to be exposed.”

“This would have been far better off if we would’ve just taken care of this behind the scenes,” Johnson told host Chuck Todd. “We have two branches of government. Most people, most people wanted to support Ukraine. We were trying to convince President Trump.”

Johnson said he spoke with Trump in August, about two weeks before the White House ultimately released $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, and that Trump "completely denied there is any kind of arrangement that Ukraine had to do something before he released that funding.”

Johnson said at the request of House Republicans he plans on submitting a letter to the House Intelligence Committee detailing his conversation with Trump, but had no plans yet to testify before the panel.

Johnson and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, were both tasked with traveling to Ukraine to ensure the money was disbursed.

Murphy, in a previous interview with “Meet the Press” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was aware that the Trump administration was withholding the military aid, undercutting a key Republican argument that Trump could not have been pushing for a quid pro quo if Ukraine was unaware there was a temporary hold on the funds.

House Democrats said testimony expected Wednesday from Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, would provide a firsthand account of someone who spoke directly with Trump about his request for Zelensky to open an investigation.

Sondland’s call with Trump on July 26, in the presence of other State Department officials, is now a key focus of the inquiry, after David Holmes, a top diplomat testified behind closed doors on Friday that he overheard Trump asking Sondland about whether Zelensky would move forward with “the investigations” into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while his father was in office.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) told ABC’s “This Week” Sondland’s testimony would be key in highlighting that Trump sought “to pressure a foreign leader to help him in his election campaign.”

"That is solicitation of a bribe and that is an impeachable offense listed in the Constitution," said Maloney.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), appearing on Fox News Sunday, pushed back on claims that Trump was more concerned with pursuing an investigation into the Bidens than helping Ukraine against Russia.

Scalise noted that the U.S. ultimately sold Javelin missiles to Ukraine and has increased overall military aid “to help Ukraine stand up to Russia.”

Pelosi, balked at giving a definitive timeline for when House Democrats hoped to wrap up the impeachment inquiry, saying “that’s up to the” House Intelligence Committee, which is leading the public hearings.

Asked if the impeachment inquiry would keep Congress from passing a spending bill to keep the government running, Pelosi confirmed that she had spoken recently with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who has said the White House has no intention of allowing another government shutdown.

“We’re all in agreement on that,” Pelosi said.

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