US President Donald Trump has been accused of inciting violence and threatened with obstruction charges after a series of ugly rants surrounding the attempt to initiate impeachment proceedings.
Mr Trump earlier tweeted that the Democrats were “wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSH*T” after a furious on-air tirade.
House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff accused Mr Trump of inciting violence against a national security whistleblower and advised the President and his administration not to intimidate potential witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.
Mr Trump responded on Twitter and in a press conference by calling Mr Schiff a “fraud” and a “low-life” and implied Mr Schiff may have “helped write” the whistleblower complaint.
“Schiff, House Intel Chairman, Got Early Account of Whistle-Blower’s Accusations”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2019
The President’s outburst came hours after Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives warned the White House to expect a subpoena for documents.
Democrats accused the administration of “flagrant disregard” of previous requests and said that refusal could be considered an impeachable offence.
Separately, the Democrats accused Mr Trump of “an incitement to violence” against a national security whistleblower and advised him and his administration not to intimidate potential witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.
The whistleblower exposed a July phone call that President had with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Mr Trump pressed for an investigation of Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his family.
Democrats say the pressure on Mr Zelenskiy, on its own, constitutes an abuse of power worthy of impeachment scrutiny.
In appearances in the Oval Office and a joint press conference with the president of Finland on Wednesday local time, Mr Trump displayed an unusual show of anger as he defended what he has called his “perfect” phone call with Mr Zelenskiy.
He suggested, without evidence, that House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff may have committed treason, and, again without evidence, labelled Biden and his son “stone cold crooked”
At one point, Mr Trump demanded that a reporter pressing him on his dealings with Ukraine move on.
“Ask the president of Finland a question, please,” he said, emphasising each word, eventually labelling the reporter “corrupt”.
Mr Trump declined to answer yes or no when asked if he would co-operate with the House to produce requested documents on Ukraine.
“Well, I always co-operate,” he said, though his administration has repeatedly stonewalled congressional investigations.
“This is a hoax,” the President added.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) October 3, 2019
Mr Schiff, accusing Mr Trump of inviting violence against the whistleblower, had said earlier that any effort to interfere with the Democrats’ investigations would be considered evidence of obstruction and could be included in articles of impeachment.
“We’re not fooling around here,” he said.
Mr Trump showed no signs of letting up, tweeting a vulgarity during the House leaders’ news conference and saying “the Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country”.
Throwing criticism broadly, he assailed Mr Schiff as a “low-life” and said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco has turned into a “tent city” of homeless.
Mr Trump has tweeted in recent days that he wants to “find out about” the whistleblower and question him or her, though the person’s identity is protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act.
The Democrats said they would subpoena the White House on Friday for documents related to Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
House Oversight and Reform chairman Elijah Cummings wrote in a memo to committee members that the action is necessary because the White House has ignored multiple requests.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged on Wednesday he was on the phone call between Mr Trump and Mr Zelenskiy that is at the centre of the impeachment inquiry.
He also continued to push back against what he said was Democrats’ “bullying and intimidation”.