As the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump gathers pace, he is adopting an ever more aggressive defense.
The commander-in-chief is attacking political opponents and critics on a daily basis, accusing the most senior House Democrats of corruption, criminality and even treason.
Ahead of another week of closed-door depositions on the Hill, the president launched fresh attacks on the probe into his July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which he has dismissed as another “witch hunt.”
The president’s Sunday evening tirade branded the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, “a corrupt politician.” Trump speculated that Schiff might amend records of closed-door testimony to incriminate him and “suit the Dems purposes.”
Trump suggested that Republicans involved in the hearings “should give their own transcripts of the interviews to contrast with Schiff’s manipulated propaganda,” adding that Schiff is “a proven liar, leaker & freak who is really the one who should be impeached!”
The president then said that any suggestion of a proposed quid pro quo with Zelenskiy “doesn’t matter” and claimed “there is nothing wrong with that, it is not an impeachable event.”
Trump is accused of withholding U.S. military aid to the country while pressuring Zelenskiy to open an investigation into allegations of corruption involving potential 2020 rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
The assertions prompted a backlash from some observers and long-time critics on Twitter. Among them was Walter Schaub, a former director of the Office of Government Ethics.
“Trump just tweeted that there’s ‘nothing wrong’ with engaging in ‘quid pro quo’ to extort a foreign power into attacking our election,” Schaub wrote on Twitter.
“We are in some seriously dark times when the president’s defense becomes ‘I didn’t do the crime, but there’s nothing wrong with crime if I did,’” he added.
George Conway—a prominent critic of the president despite his marriage to Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway—dismissed the president’s claim that Schiff could release amended transcripts to undermine the White House.
Calling Trump a “dummy,” Conway noted that investigators are using stenographers to transcribe the closed-door depositions. These officials are under oath, and witnesses are allowed to review their transcripts for accuracy before signing them.
Author and former GOP member Tom Nichols said the president’s latest tweets posed another challenge to the Republican lawmakers still supporting him, warning that their stubborn defense of Trump could be damning for the party.
“This should be, in any sane country, a bipartisan moment,” he wrote on Twitter. “The President is now committing multiple impeachable offenses every day by demanding laws be broken at his command. Republicans – especially – should have cut Trump loose long ago as a matter of duty.”
He added that disgraced former President Richard Nixon was “heading for impeachment for a fraction of what Trump has done” and that “Republicans know this.”
“They once prided themselves on being the messengers to the White House that the line had been crossed. No longer.”