House Speaker Pelosi Launches Formal Trump Impeachment Inquiry
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump Tuesday stemming from his allegedly putting political pressure on Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
Pelosi made her announcement on the House floor Tuesday evening after closed-door meetings with the Democratic chairs of six committees already investigating Trump and his administration and with the full Democratic Caucus.
“Today, I’m announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry,” Pelosi said in a seven-minute speech. “I’m directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella … The president must be held accountable; no one is above the law.”
Later she added, “The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution, especially when the president says ‘Article II [of the Constitution] says I can do whatever I want.’”
The Speaker did not take questions from reporters.
Earlier, in a joint statement, Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said “allegations that the President of the United States sought to enlist a foreign government to interfere in our democratic process by investigating one of his political rivals – and may have used the withholding of Congressionally appropriated foreign assistance days earlier as intimidation – are deeply alarming.”
“It is imperative that the Acting Director of National Intelligence provide Congress the complaint, as specified under the law, and all requests for documents and testimony relating to this allegation. Furthermore, the whistleblower who brought this matter to the attention of the American people must be protected,” the statement continued.
“This is not a partisan matter,” Pelosi and Hoyer said. “It’s about the integrity of our democracy, respect for the rule of law and defending our Constitution. We hope that all Members of the House – Democrats and Republicans alike – will join in upholding the rule of law and oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution as Representatives of the American people.”
Trump, for his part, told reporters traveling with him in New York that an impeachment inquiry would help him in the 2020 election but would harm the country.
“If she does that they all say that’s a positive for me in the election. You could also say who needs it, it’s bad for the country,” he said.
The president has been at the center of a firestorm since last Friday when The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported that in a July phone call Trump repeatedly asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the involvement of Biden’s son, Hunter, with a Ukrainian energy company.
The phone call between the two world leaders was reportedly part of a whistleblower complaint later filed against Trump from within the U.S. intelligence community.
Subsequent reports revealed that Trump ordered his staff to freeze nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine a few days before the call to Zelenskiy, something the president himself has confirmed.
Trump said Tuesday afternoon he has authorized the release of a complete transcript of his phone call with Ukraine’s president on Wednesday.
The reports also said Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate whether Biden misused his position as vice president under former President Barack Obama to threaten to withhold U.S. aid unless a prosecutor who had investigated the energy company in which Biden’s son was involved was fired.
Biden, now a Democratic presidential hopeful, has acknowledged he wanted the prosecutor fired, but no evidence has emerged that he sought that outcome to help his son.
It has since emerged that a number of entities, including the European Union, International Monetary Fund and other international institutions also wanted the prosecutor fired because of an alleged failure to pursue major corruption cases.
Since Friday, Trump has repeatedly insisted he did nothing wrong in freezing funding for the Eastern European ally before talking with the Ukraine president about the Bidens.
In remarks to reporters at the United Nations Tuesday morning, Trump said he held up the aid to fight corruption and urge European nations to share in helping out Ukraine.
“I’d withhold again,” Trump said. “And I’ll continue to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine.”
The money, which had been approved by Congress, was released after the July phone call.
The flurry of developments came as a growing number of House Democrats ranging from freshman lawmakers to seasoned veterans, lined up in support of an impeachment probe.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., a former CIA agent, told the Associated Press Tuesday that “the notion of a select committee is likely a good one,” but insisted it needed to be bipartisan.
“We should all want to get to the bottom of these allegations and know without a shadow of a doubt that our president is either innocent or he’s not,” Spanberger told the AP.
Spanberger is one of seven House freshmen from national security backgrounds — including a former Navy pilot, soldiers, officers and intelligence analysts — who wrote in a joint op-ed in The Washington Post that the allegations against Trump “are stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent.”
If true, they represent an impeachable offense, the lawmakers said.
The other representatives who signed their name to the op-ed were Reps. Gil Cisneros, of California; Jason Crow, of Colorado; Chrissy Houlahan, of Pennsylvania; Elaine Luria, of Virginia; Mikie Sherrill, of New Jersey; Elissa Slotkin, of Michigan. All are Democrats that won in traditionally Republican districts.
“Now is the time to act,” said Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the civil rights icon, in an emotional address to the House on Tuesday.
“The time to begin impeachment proceedings against this president has come,” Lewis said.
He said he has been patient but now, “To delay or to do otherwise would betray the foundation of our democracy.”
Another option would have been to create a select committee to deepen the probes of the Trump administration.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler has declared that his committee is already conducting impeachment hearings, but the panel has been unable to get many key witnesses and documents from the Trump administration.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday he would seek a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate on a resolution calling for the Trump administration to provide Congress with the whistleblower’s government complaint.
“We still have not received the whistleblower complaint as the law requires. @realDonaldTrump’s admin is covering it up,” Schumer said on Twitter. “Today, I will demand the Senate pass a resolution calling for the whistleblower complaint to be provided to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.”
Acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has refused to share that information, citing presidential privilege. He is set to testify Thursday before the House.
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