President calls Pelosi a 'time-waster' and Schiff a 'shifty, dishonest lowlife' in impeachment spat
US President Donald Trump unleashed a torrent of abuse on Democratic leaders in a series of tweets and television appearances as House leaders stepped up their impeachment inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine.
The attacks punctuated the day as it became clear Democratic leaders are moving quickly in their investigation.
House Democrats vowed to subpoena the White House by the end of the week if officials refuse to produce documents related to Mr Trump's phone call with Ukraine's president and other efforts to convince him to investigate Mr Trump's political rival Joe Biden.
Lawmakers will also interview people they deem key witnesses, including Mr Trump's former envoy to Ukraine, the intelligence inspector-general and the ousted ambassador to Kiev.
"We're not fooling around here," House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff said as he appeared with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill. "We don't want this to drag on months and months and months."
The president, on Twitter, accused Ms Pelosi of "wasting everyone's time and energy on BULLS---." Later, during two television appearances alongside the president of Finland, Mr Trump laid into Mr Schiff, calling him a "lowlife" and a "shifty, dishonest guy" as the Finnish leader looked on uncomfortably. He attacked Mr Schiff for presenting an exaggerated version of the phone call during a hearing last week. Mr Schiff defended his account as obvious parody.
While the impeachment inquiry is centred on the president, his top aides are becoming swept up in the controversy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has confirmed he listened in on Mr Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and reiterated his complaint that Democrats' demands for interviews with State Department officials amounted to an act of intimidation.
Democrats, meanwhile, questioned the extent of Mr Pompeo's knowledge about the phone call and warned him not to obstruct their efforts to speak with State Department officials.
Mr Schiff said he is "deeply concerned about Mr Pompeo's effort to potentially interfere with witnesses whose testimony is needed before our committee".
The leading Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee, Robert Menendez, called on Mr Pompeo to recuse himself from all Ukraine- related matters.
Trump defended his secretary of state, noting his high marks at Harvard University and the US Military Academy at West Point. "Adam B. Schiff should only be so lucky to have the brains, honour and strength of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo," he tweeted.
Mr Schiff "couldn't carry his blank strap," said Mr Trump, omitting the word "jock" in an apparent effort to censor the schoolyard taunt.
Mr Pompeo's recently departed special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, was scheduled to meet congressional investigators behind closed doors yesterday. It remained unclear whether a transcript of the interview will be made public.
In advance of the appearance, Mr Volker has turned over a number of documents consisting of text messages with Mr Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and other people.
Mr Giuliani, a leading figure in pushing the Ukrainian government to investigate Mr Biden and pushing for the removal earlier this year of the US ambassador to Ukraine, has insisted he was on a mission for the State Department
According to a rough transcript of Mr Trump's call, Mr Zelensky expressed appreciation for US help in defending Ukraine against Russia and said he wanted to buy more US weapons. Mr Trump froze hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine days before the call. He replied to Mr Zelensky: "I would like you to do us a favour though," and requested that he investigate allegations Democrats conspired with Ukrainians to influence the 2016 US presidential election. Mr Trump also pressed for an investigation into Mr Biden and the former vice-president's son.
A whistleblower complaint, filed in August with the intelligence community's inspector-general, alleges the call reveals Mr Trump abused his office to pressure a foreign country to damage a political opponent in the 2020 election.
© Washington Post