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Trump White House has launched a 'cover up' to hide president's impeachable offences in Ukraine phone call, Pelosi says

US House speaker says Mr Trump "betrayed his oath of office, our national security and the integrity" of elections

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 26 September 2019 17:41 BST
House speaker Pelosi announces Trump impeachment inquiry

Nancy Pelosi described White House efforts to conceal a potentially damning transcript of a phone call between Donald Trump and Ukraine as a “cover-up" after a whistleblower filed a complaint against the president from within the US Intelligence Community.

The Democratic speaker of the House — who officially launched an impeachment inquiry against the president earlier this week — said acting National Intelligence Director Joseph Maguire’s decision to take the complaint to the White House was “unprecedented” and “wrong”.

Mr Trump "betrayed his oath of office, our national security and the integrity" of US elections, Ms Pelosi said during a press conference on Thursday.

“This is a cover-up,” she added.

She spoke as the nation's top spy chief gave evidence over about his role in the unfolding scandal during a public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

Mr Maguire insisted he had done nothing wrong — but refused to say whether he had directly discussed the complaint with Mr Trump, saying he could not disclose details of his conversations with the president due to executive privilege. He said the White House did not instruct him to assert that privilege.

Details of the complaint were revealed just minutes before Mr Maguire sat for testimony.

The top US spy chief testified before Congress discussed his handling of the explosive whistle-blower complaint that sparked an official impeachment inquiry into the president.

He described the case as “unique and unprecedented” while defending his decision to bring the complaint in question to the White House before he provided the document to House committees investigating the president.

“I realised full and well the importance of the allegation,” Mr Maguire said. He said he believed the whistleblower and Inspector General’s office which reviewed the complaint “have acted in food faith throughout”.

He also described foreign election interference as “unwarranted,” adding: “It is unwelcome. It is bad for the nation.”

Joseph Maguire: 'In my nearly 4 decades of public service, my integrity has never been questioned until now'

As he spoke, Ms Pelosi said the acting director “broke the law” by withholding the whistleblower complaint from the House committee.

“What the [Director of National Intelligence] did was broke the law,” she said. “The law is very clear: the DNI shall' convey the complaint to the Intelligence Committees — not the whole Congress — to the Intelligence Committees.”

Ms Pelosi added: "The very idea that the subject of the complaint is who he went to to find out if it was OK to go forward, I think, is wrong ... I don't think it's nefarious, I just think it's wrong, and it's against the law."

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The president has denied all wrongdoing alleged from the phone call, claiming he only withheld financial aid to Ukraine because he wanted to see other European countries contribute more funding in its defence against Russia, not because he wanted the country to launch an investigation into his 2020 rival Joe Biden.

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