Jon Elswick / AP

Democrats' Impeachment Report Cites Trump for Sidelining and Threatening Federal Employees

Republicans, meanwhile, issue report blaming "unelected bureaucrats" for pushing impeachment.

President Trump and his administration repeatedly bypassed, dismissed and threatened members of the career federal workforce, House Democrats said in their official impeachment inquiry report released Tuesday. 

The mistreatment of individual public servants and the bureaucracy writ large emerged as a running theme in the Democrats' 300-page report, which detailed allegations of how that behavior enabled Trump and his appointees to circumvent career experts to advance a politically motivated mission against a potential opponent in the 2020 presidential race. House Republicans, meanwhile, spent much of their own report castigating “unelected bureaucrats” alleged to have enabled and furthered the impeachment process because they personally disagreed with Trump’s legitimate priorities. 

The impeachment case laid out by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee highlighted a smear campaign undertaken by Trump and his allies against the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint kicked off impeachment proceedings, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and other federal employees. It also described how the administration disrupted the House’s investigation by intimidating career workers who could have assisted in providing information. Those employees, Democrats said, were involuntarily roped into the chain of events that reportedly led to Trump asking Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and the withholding of a White House meeting and congressionally mandated aid. 

Multiple career staffers at the Office of Management and Budget resigned due to the White House’s withholding of aid to Ukraine, Democrats said, as political officials took the unusual step of taking over the allocation of that spending. 

“President Trump’s scheme intentionally bypassed many career personnel,” House Democrats wrote. 

They also suggested that Trump’s statements and tweets about the career employees asked to testify or cooperate amounted to witness intimidation. 

“The president engaged in this effort to intimidate these public servants to prevent them from cooperating with Congress’ impeachment inquiry,” they said. “He issued threats, openly discussed possible retaliation, made insinuations about their character and patriotism, and subjected them to mockery and derision—when they deserved the opposite.”

Those comments likely had a widespread effect, Democrats added, especially for employees who could shed light on future wrongdoing. 

“Most chillingly,” they wrote, “the president issued a threat against the whistleblower and those who provided information to the whistleblower regarding the president’s misconduct, suggesting that they could face the death penalty for treason.”

Democrats noted that ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president, but the circumstances surrounding Yovanovitch’s ouster were unusual and raised “questions of motive.” The campaign for her removal included efforts by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, and his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in communication with Giuliani prior to Yovanovitch’s recall, the report found, and the secretary refused to issue a statement supporting her when pressed to do so. Trump ultimately told Zelensky that Yovanovitch was “going to go through some things,” which the ambassador said made her “very concerned” upon reading the comments. 

While Democrats praised “career public servants charged with implementing U.S. foreign policy in a non-partisan manner,” House Republicans in their own report blasted them as nefarious actors attempting to subvert the duly elected president. 

“The Democrats’ impeachment inquiry paints a picture of unelected bureaucrats within the foreign policy and national security apparatus who fundamentally disagreed with President Trump’s style, world view and decisions,” Republicans said. “Their disagreements with President Trump’s policies and their discomfort with President Trump’s actions set in motion the anonymous, secondhand whistleblower complaint.”

The entire impeachment inquiry, they added, is based upon the “accusations and assumptions” of those career employees who took umbrage with Trump’s “policy initiatives and processes.” Trump took an “outside-the-Beltway” approach, they said, which rubbed career diplomats the wrong way. Additionally, they explained, Trump is naturally suspicious of the career federal workforce that he blames for leaks. 

Republicans deemed it entirely legitimate for Trump to designate elements of U.S. foreign policy to Giuliani, Energy Department Secretary Rick Perry and others, and said career officials raising concerns about that process were merely jealous they were being sidelined. To give “unelected bureaucrats” a larger role in setting policy, the Republicans added, would upend the nature of the civil service. 

“The unelected bureaucracy exists to serve the elected representatives of the American people,” House Republicans wrote. “The Democrats’ impeachment narrative flips our system on its head in service of their political ambitions.”