Trump seethes but says he will comply with House subpoenas

Donald Trump said he would co-operate with congressional subpoenas related to the impeachment inquiry engulfing his presidency, as he lashed out at Democrats for pursuing the “greatest hoax”.

During a news conference on Wednesday, a visibly angry Mr Trump slammed the investigation into the July 25 call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky that has sparked the fourth impeachment inquiry into a US president.

Just hours after accusing Adam Schiff, the chair of the House intelligence committee, of “treason”, Mr Trump said he would work with investigators after another House panel threatened to serve the White House with subpoenas.

“This is the greatest hoax. It is just a continuation of what’s been playing out since my election,” Mr Trump said at a press conference alongside Finnish president Sauli Niinistö. “This is a fraudulent crime on the American people. But we’ll work together with ‘Shifty Schiff’ and [House speaker Nancy] Pelosi . . . and we’ll see what happens.”

Mr Trump was speaking as Democratic-led committees in the House moved rapidly to pursue an investigation that many experts believe will result in lawmakers bringing and passing articles of impeachment. While Mr Trump has frequently described probes into his behaviour — in particular, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — as witch hunts, his language has grown increasingly aggressive as the pressure builds.

Mr Trump is worried about a whistleblower — an anonymous CIA official who flagged the July 25 call — who is expected to brief Congress regarding a complaint he made about the president’s behaviour, which he described as pressuring the Ukrainian president for dirt on Mr Trump’s political rival Joe Biden.

In recent days, Mr Trump has become increasingly bellicose, describing the whistleblower and officials who spoke to him as spies, calling the moves against him a “coup” and warning that impeachment could spark a civil war. 

While supporters of President Richard Nixon, who faced an impeachment investigation that led to his resignation in 1972, claimed that there was a “silent” coup against him, David Gergen, a former adviser to four Democratic and Republican presidents, said he could not remember an occasion when an actual president had made such a claim.

“The warnings of a coup today from the right are much more central to the controversy than they were in Nixon days. Trump and many of his supporters seriously believe that a coup is under way,” Mr Gergen said. “Fears are rising that if the Senate — as unlikely as this is — votes to remove Trump, he and his allies will strenuously resist, refusing to leave. That would be by far and away the biggest constitutional crisis since the Civil War.”

In a memorandum on Wednesday, Elijah Cummings, the Democratic head of the House oversight committee, said he would give the White House until Friday to respond to a voluntary request to provide documents in the investigation.

At the news conference, Mr Trump lamented that Republicans had not issued subpoenas when they held the majority in the House, but that Ms Pelosi was more willing to help her members.

“Nancy Pelosi hands out subpoenas . . . like they’re cookies,” Mr Trump said.

Mr Trump has repeatedly defended his call with the Ukrainian leader in which, according to a transcript, he said he wanted “a favour” before asking for help with two investigations: one aimed at discrediting the Mueller report, which is being led by attorney-general William Barr, and a second that appeared aimed at finding dirt on Mr Biden and his son Hunter’s Ukrainian business dealings.

Mr Trump continued to push what most people say is a conspiracy theory about the Bidens on Wednesday, saying the former vice-president and his son were both “stone cold crooked”.

While Mr Trump is no stranger to pushing back aggressively in his frequent encounters with the media, he appeared much more angry than usual. But he tried to play down the impact that the investigations were having.

“I am used to it. For me it’s like putting on a suit in the morning,” Mr Trump said.

Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter: @dimi

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