Donald Trump began his first day as a formal impeachment target the same way he has approached the months of informal impeachment rumblings since Democrats took over the House of Representatives. He went on offense.
‘There has been no President in the history of our Country who has been treated so badly as I have,’ he tweeted Wednesday morning.
‘The Democrats are frozen with hatred and fear. They get nothing done. This should never be allowed to happen to another President. Witch Hunt!’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched what she designated a ‘formal impeachment inquiry’ on Tuesday, giving in to demands from her party’s leading presidential candidates and her caucus’s increasingly aggressive left wing that Congress should follow a path that could oust the president.
Donald Trump began his first day as a formal impeachment target the same way he has approached the months of informal impeachment rumblings since Democrats took over the House of Representatives. He went on offense.
Trump lashed out at ‘hatred and fear’ in the Democratic House caucus
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday launched a formal impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, which she said would now serve as an umbrella for numerous congressional investigations into the Republican president
Pelosi announced in a televised statement that she has opened an umbrella for a raft of congressional investigations into the Republican president – who Democrats say has serially violated the U.S. Constitution.
‘This week the president has admitted to asking the president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically. The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable fact [sic] of the president’s betrayal of his Oath of Office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our national elections,’ she announced.
‘Therefore, today I’m announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. I’m directing our six committees to proceed with their investigation under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry. The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.’
Pelosi delivered her remarks from inside her U.S. Capitol office after informing her caucus privately of her decision in a basement meeting room.
President Trump fired off a series of angry tweets as Pelosi addressed impeachment
She had been under intense pressure from Democrats inside and outside Congress to move forward with impeachment; critical mass came with a new demand from former Vice President Joe Biden, who is running to replace Trump in 2020.
She spoke while the president was in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly. He returned to his penthouse in Trump Tower just in time to see Pelosi’s announcement that Democrats are seeking to throw him out of the White House permanently.
He immediately fired back on Twitter, saying, ‘Such an important day at the United Nations, so much work and so much success, and the Democrats purposely had to ruin and demean it with more breaking news Witch Hunt garbage. So bad for our Country!’
In successive tweets he raged: ‘Pelosi, Nadler, Schiff and, of course, Maxine Waters! Can you believe this?’
‘They never even saw the transcript of the call. A total Witch Hunt!’
‘PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!’ he concluded.
The White House howled and declared the legislative process ‘destroyed.’
‘In a far departure from all of the work and results of this President, House Democrats have destroyed any chances of legislative progress for the people of this country by continuing to focus all their energy on partisan political attacks. Their attacks on the President and his agenda are not only partisan and pathetic, they are in dereliction of their Constitutional duty,’ said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham in a statement.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., smiles as House Democrats arrive for a caucus meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019 in Washington. She pushed for impeachment months ago
Pelosi ‘wanted to assemble the troops to say that we have a common goal that we are moving to quickly which is to discover exactly what happened with the president’s overtures to Ukraine,’ said Rep. Jamie Raskin
Panel chairs like Judiciary Committee head Rep. Jerold Nadler will continue with their work
‘The Trump Administration will continue to be vigorous in laying out the facts and standing up for the many forgotten men and women who elected him,’ she said.
Pelosi’s declaration came after an extended news cycle about corruption in the administration’s discussions with Ukraine’s leaders prompted a sudden shift among a number of Democrats on an issue that had spit the caucus.
What Pelosi announced – an official impeachment inquiry – was less a mechanical change than a semantic new statement of determination from the leadership that met the demands of restless members.
‘Call it Phase II,’ said Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly.
‘He’s in my opinion committed treason,’ said Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon. ‘Hopefully the American people do not want a treasonous president. We’ll see how it works out next November,’ he added.
He put little stock in the transcript Trump announced he will release Wednesday. ‘I expect they’re right now editing Trump’s transcript. It’s not going to be what he really said. So we have to hear from the whistleblower wants to testify, has consulted with counsel, counsel is consulting. We’re going to find a way to protect the whistleblower, hear form the whistleblower. And if what Trump said publicly he did? That’s treason,’ DeFazio added.
Pelosi ‘wanted to assemble the troops to say that we have a common goal that we are moving to quickly which is to discover exactly what happened with the president’s overtures to Ukraine and if necessary to impeach the president for what he’s done,’ Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland told DailyMail.com.
‘There’s intense frustration within our caucus about the administration continued obstruction of our fact-finding process. There is growing interest in using the inherent contempt powers of Congress,’ he told a group of reporters – following threats by members to fine or even jail witnesses who fail to show up or talk.
‘I think we’re all moving in exactly the same direction now,’ said Raskin.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., right, with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., blasted Pelosi’s comments
Intelligence Chair Rep. Adam Schiff said the whistleblower wants to talk to his panel. He said he supports the impeachment inquiry
‘Call it Phase II,’ said Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, after meeting with with fellow Democrats and Nancy Pelosi
Pelosi has warned repeatedly about the dangers of impeachment, but the Ukraine matter has convinced many lawmakers that the party has a story to tell – even each House-member must face the voters after casting a possible vote on impeachment.
Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois told DailyMail.com: ‘The fact of the matter is, this entire caucus is now going to be focused on this issue,’ he said. ‘Let’s face facts. In April 1974, a majority of the American people were not in favor of impeachment. Four months later the president of the United States was gone. There was a public disclosure of crimes and misdemeanors.’
One Democratic lawmaker who supports impeachment told DailyMail.com that pressure had been building on Pelosi for some time, ‘But when the president went this extra step and obstructed a whistle-blower, it was a bridge too far.’
‘I think she believes she has a duty to uphold the Constitution. And that the president overstepped by asking a foreign government to interfere in our elections,’ the lawmaker said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at a Fed Up? Rise Up! rally outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC September 24, 2019
Following the Mueller hearings, ‘More will watch this, particularly for Middle America who may or may not have made up their mind about this president, they’re going to get an earful, not just of what took place in the special counsel’s report, but also the crimes that have taken place since.’
‘What’s not in the Mueller report in the investigation could be more important’ than what Mueller included, said Quigley, including potential money laundering. ‘This is a president who’s never been held accountable to anything he’s done wrong in his life. This is that first opportunity for him to be held accountable.’
Lawmakers said there was no timeline for the six committees to complete action related to impeachment.
Pelosi made the announcement directly after her caucus met on impeachment amid an outcry from rank-and-file members as well as senior Democrats, as she prepared to announce a formal impeachment inquiry. As Tuesday wore on, the number of Democrats backing impeachment hit 180, in a stat the New York Times featured on its landing web page.
Pelosi told a conference organized by the Atlantic magazine Tuesday afternoon: ‘It’s really sad to think that a president would perform an impeachable offense. It’s hard, you know, it’s hard to say we’ve gotten to that place. But what would be an impeachable offense would be that which is proven in an investigation,’ she said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s speech on impeachment
Good afternoon. Last Tuesday, we observed the anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution on September 17.
Sadly, on that day, the Intelligence Community Inspector General formally notified the Congress that the Administration was forbidding him from turning over a whistleblower complaint. On Constitution Day. This is a violation of law.
Shortly thereafter, press reports began to break of a phone call by the President of the United States calling upon a foreign power to intervene in his election. This is a breach of his constitutional responsibilities.
The facts are these: the Intelligence Community Inspector General, who was appointed by President Trump, determined that the complaint is both of ‘urgent concern and credible,’ and its disclosure, he went on to say, that it ‘relates to one of the most significant and important of the Director of National Intelligence’s responsibilities to the American people.’
On Thursday, the Inspector General testified before the House Intelligence Committee, stating that the Acting Director of National Intelligence blocked him from disclosing the whistleblower complaint. This is a violation of the law.
The law is unequivocal. The DNI, it says, the Director of National Intelligence ‘shall’ provide Congress the full whistleblower complaint.
For more than 25 years, I have served on the Intelligence Committee – as a Member, as the Ranking Member, as part of the Gang of 4 even before I was in the Leadership.
I was there when we created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. That did not exist before 2004.
I was there ever earlier in 90’s when we wrote the whistleblower laws and continue to write them, to improve them to ensure the security of our intelligence and the safety of our whistleblowers.
I know what their purpose was, and we proceeded with balance and caution as we wrote the laws. I can say with authority, that the Trump Administration’s actions undermine both: our national security and our intelligence and our protections of whistleblowers – more than both.
This Thursday, the Acting DNI will appear before the House Intelligence Committee.
At that time, he must turn over the whistleblower’s full complaint to the Committee. He will have to choose whether to break the law or honor his responsibility to the Constitution.
On the final day of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when our Constitution was adopted, Americans gathered on the steps of Independence Hall to await the news of the government our Founders had crafted.
They asked Benjamin Franklin, ‘What do we have: a republic or a monarchy?’ Franklin replied: ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’
Our responsibility is to keep it.
Our republic endures because of the wisdom of our Constitution, enshrined in three co-equal branches of government, serving as checks and balances on each other.
The actions taken to date by the President have seriously violated the Constitution – especially when the President says, ‘Article II says, I can do whatever I want.’
For the past several months, we have been investigating in our Committees and litigating in the courts, so the House can gather ‘all the relevant facts and consider whether to exercise its full Article I powers, including a constitutional power of the utmost gravity — approval of articles of impeachment.’
And this week, the President has admitted to asking the President of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically. The action of – the actions of the Trump Presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the President’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.
Therefore, today, I am announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. I am directing our six Committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.
The President must be held accountable. No one is above the law.
Getting back to our Founders – in the darkest days of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote: ‘The times have found us.’ The times found them to fight for and establish our democracy. The times have found us today, not to place ourselves in the same category of greatness as our Founders, but to place us in the urgency of protecting and defending our Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. In the words of Ben Franklin, to keep our Republic.
I thank our Chairmen – Chairman Nadler, Chairman Schiff. Chairman Nadler of Judiciary. Chairman Schiff of Intelligence. Chairman Engel of Foreign Affairs. Chairman Cummings of Oversight and Chairman Cummings I have been in touch with constantly. He is a master of so much but including, Inspectors General and whistleblowers. Congressman Richie Neal of the Ways and Means Committee. Congresswomen Maxine Waters of the Financial Services Committee.
And I commend all of our Members, our colleagues for their thoughtful, thoughtful approach to all of this – for their careful statements.
God bless them and God Bless America. Thank you all.
High-profile Democrats from the party’s left wing vented their frustrations in a way that the more measured Pelosi could not.
‘We can now see with our own eyes that the President is jeopardizing our national security,’ House Oversight and Reform chairman Elijah Cummings said in a statement.
‘He admitted to personally withholding military security aid that Congress appropriated to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression. He admitted to personally urging a foreign actor to dig up dirt on his political rival.’
Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley blamed the state of play on ‘the gravity and extent of President Trump’s corrupt actions.’
Trump, he claimed, ‘has repeatedly and flagrantly violated his oath of office and disgraced the office of the presidency. Holding foreign aid hostage until a foreign leader agrees to smear a political opponent is textbook corruption, plain and simple.
Rep. Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania told DailyMail.com he fully supports the inquiry. ‘It is sadly necessary and must be done expeditiously.’
White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said he had seen the transcript but told Fox News it would exonerate the president.
‘It baffles the mind how many times Democrats are going to keep walking down this road and walking into these left hooks by Donald Trump,’ he said. ‘The president has done nothing wrong and you’re going to see that tomorrow,’ Gidley predicted.
Politico reported the White House is planning to release the whistleblower complaint and an IG report that the administration has so far withheld from Congress.
Most Republicans who spoke publicly after Pelosi’s announcement toed Trump’s line.
‘There you have it folks – the witch hunt continues,’ wrote South Carolina Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan.
‘The House Democrats are proceeding on impeachment against President Trump without any evidence of wrongdoing and against the will of the American people.’
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney called Pelosi’s statement the starting gun of a ‘partisan impeachment.’
‘For months, House Democrats have careened from justification to justification, looking for any excuse to begin impeachment proceedings,’ she said, claiming Pelosi ‘is walking away from even the pretense of the necessity of evidence.’
House minority leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy spoke to the cameras not long after Pelosi to denounce the bid.
‘Speaker Pelosi happens to be the speaker of this House, but she does not speak for America when it comes to this issue,’ said McCarthy, a Trump ally. ‘She cannot decide unilaterally what happens here. They have been investigating this president before he even got elected. They have voted three times on impeachment on this floor. Twice they voted before one word on the Mueller report came back,’ he said.
‘Our job is to legislate, not to investigate something in the back when you cannot find any reason to impeach this president,’ he continued. ‘She cannot unilaterally decide we’re in an impeachment inquiry. What she said today made difference of what’s been going on.’
The speaker’s comments came as the Democratic Party’s poll-leader in the presidential called on Trump to comply with congressional requests for information on Ukraine and other matters – declaring that Congress should impeach him if he does not comply.
Former Vice President Joe Biden Joe Biden will call on President Donald Trump to comply with congressional requests for information on Ukraine and other matters and call for impeachment if he won’t comply
If Trump continues to ‘flaunt’ congressional requests for information, lawmakers would have ‘no choice but to initiate impeachment,’ said Biden, who spent decades in the Senate. ‘That would be a tragedy, but a tragedy of his own making,’ he said.
Biden said pressuring a foreign leader to interfere in a U.S. election would constitute an ‘abuse of power,’ in remarks where he didn’t specifically mention the name of his surviving son Hunter, who Trump wants investigated due to his role serving on the board of a Ukrainian bank that was previously under investigation.
The former vice president spoke after the Capitol began buzzing with intrigue following a report from the intelligence community’s inspector general on a whistleblower who supposedly raised concerns about Trump.
Trump speculated from the UN: ‘They say it’s a positive for me,’ then seethed: ‘How can you do this and you haven’t even seen the phone call?’
House Intelligence chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, who first brought to light the existence of a whistleblower who filed a complaint that set off the current Ukraine imbroglio, wants to come forward.
‘We have been informed by the whistleblower’s counsel that their client would like to speak to our committee and has requested guidance from the Acting [Director of National Intelligence] as to how to do so. We‘re in touch with counsel and look forward to the whistleblower’s testimony as soon as this week,’ the California lawmaker and Pelosi ally said.
Schiff tweeted Tuesday evening: ‘It’s bad enough Trump sought help from a foreign power in the last election. It’s worse still that he obstructed the investigation into his misconduct. Now he‘s admitted using his office to coerce another country to interfere in 2020. I fully support the impeachment inquiry.’
The House will vote Wednesday on a resolution disapproving of the administration’s decision to block the whistleblower complaint.
Acting DNI Joseph McGuire, who prevented an inspector general from revealing information about the whistleblower last week, is already set to appear for a tense hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
Amid efforts to unmask the whistle-blower, President Trump tweeted that he will release a ‘complete’ transcript Wednesday of his June call with the president of Ukraine.
The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee also invited the whistleblower to appear.
The high-powered remarks on impeachment follow more than a dozen Democrats coming out for impeachment since last week’s new revelations about Trump’s July call with the President of Ukraine.
Pelosi earned a laugh at the Atlantic festival when she said: ‘If that is the case, that the President of the United States would ask a foreign government to assist him in a political way, that would be – wrong,’ failing to drop the ‘impeachment’ word some had been anticipating.
She insisted that Democrats are fulfilling their constitutional mandate to serve as a check on the presidency.
‘This is about the Constitution of the United States,’ she argued. ‘It’s really important to know this: there is no requirement that there be a quid pro quo in the conversation. If the president brings up, he wants them to investigate something – like his political opponent – that is self-evident that it is not right.’
Pelosi said that while the quid pro quo is not essential to determining it is an ‘impeachable offense’ but Trump’s withdrawal of the bipartisan military aid for Ukraine days before is a sequence.
‘The president’s words weight tons. And just bringing up the election is bad enough,’ she contended. ‘So this is not a good thing for democracy for the leader of the free world to be talking like that. And I don’t even know if there are any scruples involved.’
She hinted that she would announce an impeachment inquiry this afternoon.
‘Use any metaphor – crossing the Rubicon,’ she said, referencing a phrase used by Schiff, ‘new territory, new day has dawned, anything you want to say. This is very serious, in a class of its own discussion that we’re having about the conduct of the President of the United States. So this isn’t about politics.’
She said, ‘But we have to have the facts. That’s why I said, as soon as we have the facts, we’re ready. Wow we have the facts, we’re ready – for later today.
She said that while the quid pro quo is not essential to determining it is an ‘impeachable offense’ but Trump’s withdrawal of the bipartisan military aid for Ukraine days before is a sequence. ‘The president’s words weigh tons. And just bringing up the election is bad enough,’ she said. ‘So this is not a good thing for democracy for the leader of the free world to be talking like that. And I don’t even know if there are any scruples involved.’
In another potent symbol, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the civil rights icon many Democrats consider the ‘conscience’ of their caucus, said in a floor speech that now is the time to impeach Trump.
Trump said Tuesday he has directed the release of the ‘complete’ transcript of his July phone call with the president of Ukraine that has let to an uproar and fueled calls by Democrats for his impeachment.
The president made his decision known during a day of meetings at the UN, just as former Vice President Joe Biden was set to speak and call for his impeachment if he would not hand over a whistle-blower’s complaint. Hours earlier, Trump admitted he had held up millions in security aid to Ukraine before holding the call.
‘I am currently at the United Nations representing our Country, but have authorized the release tomorrow of the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript of my phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine,’ the president tweeted.
‘You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call. No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo! This is nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!’
Trump once again defended his ‘perfect’ call with the president of Ukraine Tuesday – and acknowledged holding up hundreds of millions in appropriated security funds for the nation.
But Trump denied holding back the money as a pressure tactic, saying he was perturbed that European powers should themselves ‘put up money.’
The president was asked at the UN why he decided to block the security aid just a week before he has admitted raising ‘corruption’ issues with the his Ukrainian counterpart.
‘I think it’s unfair that we put up the money. Then people called me, they said, oh, let it go and I let it go. But we paid the money. The money was paid. But very importantly, Germany, France, other countries should put up money and that’s been my complaint from the beginning,’ he said.
A new report reveals that Donald Trump ordered a military aid freeze of almost $400 million to Ukraine days ahead of his July phone call with Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky
European nations also have provided support to Ukraine, and in July, weeks before Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine, provided $17.7 million Euros in humanitarian assistance.
Describing his phone call, which is now the subject of three congressional investigations as Democratic calls for his impeachment rise, Trump said: ‘It couldn’t have been nicer and even the Ukrainian government put out a statement that that was a perfect call, there was no pressure put on them whatsoever.’
‘But there was pressure put on with respect to Joe Biden. What Joe Biden did for his son, that’s something they should be looking at,’ Trump said – renewing his call for an investigation of his political rival.
The president once again ripped calls by Democrats for his impeachment and demands that his administration hand over a whistle-blower’s complaint.
‘I think it’s ridiculous. It’s a witch hunt. I’m leading in the polls. They have no idea how they stop me. The only way they can try is through impeachment,’ Trump vented.
‘This has never happened to a president before. There’s never been a thing like this before. It’s nonsense,’ he said.
Before announcing he would release it, Trump mentioned the transcript of the call, which he said he assumes the public will see.
‘When you see the call, when you see the readout of the call, which I assume you’ll see at some point, you’ll understand,’ he told reporters. That call was perfect. It couldn’t have been nicer. Even the Ukrainian government put out a statement that that was a perfect call.’
He continued his Monday denial of applying ‘pressure’ for Ukraine to investigate political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.
‘There was no pressure put on them whatsoever. But there was pressure put on with respect to Joe Biden.What Joe Biden did for his son, that’s something they should be looking at,’ he said.
Trump withheld almost $400 million in military aid from Ukraine just days before a July phone call where he is accused of pressuring the nation’s president to prosecute Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? THE VERY COMPLICATED STEPS INVOLVED IN IMPEACHING DONALD TRUMP
Nancy Pelosi announcing a formal impeachment investigation is only the start of what will be an epic legal and constitutional clash.
Here is how impeachment goes from here.
1) Investigations step up
Six committees are now tasked by Pelosi with investigating Donald Trump with the intention of deciding whether he should be impeached. They are the House Judiciary, Oversight, Intelligence, Ways and Means, Financial Services and Foreign Affairs committees. All of them are now likely to issue a flurry of subpoenas which is certain to lead to a new:
2) Court battle over subpoenas – which could go to the Supreme Court
The Trump administration has so far resisted subpoenas by claiming executive privilege and is certain to continue to do so. Federal judges are already dealing with litigation over subpoenas for Trump’s tax and financial records and many more cases are likely to follow. But the courts have never settled the limits of executive privilege and whether an impeachment inquiry effectively gives Congress more power to overcome it. If Trump fights as hard as he can, it is likely to make its way to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, expect:
3) More hearings
Democrats know they need to convince the public that Trump needs to be put on trial and the best way to do that is hearings like those which electrified the nation during Watergate. They botched the Mueller hearing but if they produce question and answer sessions with people from Trump-world which cause public outrage, they are on their way to:
4) Drawing up formal articles of impeachment in committee
The charge sheet for impeachment – the ‘articles’ – set out what Trump is formally accused of. It has no set format – it can be as long or as short as Congress decides. Three such set of articles have been drawn up – for Andrew Johnson on 1868, Richard Nixon in 1974, and Bill Clinton in 1998. Johnson’s were the most extensive at 11, Nixon faced three, and Bill Clinton four but with a series of numbered charges in each article. Once drawn up, the judicial committee votes on them and if approved, sends them to the House for:
5) Full floor vote on impeachment
The constitution says the House needs a simple majority to proceed, but has to vote on each article. Nixon quit before such a vote so Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton are the only precedent. The House passed two out of the three articles against Clinton and all 11 against Johnson. Passing even one article leads to:
6) Senate impeachment trial
Even if the Senate is clearly not in favor of removing the president, it has to stage a trial if the House votes for impeachment. The hearing is in not in front of the full Senate, but ‘evidentiary committees’ – in theory at least similar to the existing Senate committees. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over it, but the procedures are set by senators. Members of the House prosecute Trump as ‘managers,’ bringing witnesses and presenting evidence to set out their case against the president. The president can defend himself, or, as Clinton did, use attorneys to cross-examine the witnesses. The committee or committees report to the full Senate. Then it can debate in public or deliberate in private on the guilt or innocence of the president. It holds a single open floor vote which will deliver:
7) The verdict
Impeachment must be by two-thirds of the Senate. Voting for impeachment on any one article is good enough to remove the president from office. There is no appeal.
The president ordering his staff to freeze the funds, which two people familiar with private conversations confirmed, is the latest revelation related to his conversation with Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky.
New reports emerged last week that reveal a whistle-blower, who does not have direct knowledge of the leaders’ phone call this summer, alleged that Trump tried to pressure Zelensky into probing his 2020 political rival’s son Hunter Biden regarding his involvement in a natural gas firm in Ukraine.
Trump admitted he mentioned the Biden’s in his call with Zelensky, but said it was in regards to helping keep out foreign corruption from Ukraine.
In the days before that call, Trump ordered the aid to Ukraine be frozen, but Trump asserts he did nothing wrong and has denied that any requests for help in procuring damaging information about the former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate were tied to the aid freeze.
As Zelensky (pictured), who took office in May, deals with rebels in the east, aid from the U.S. has largely been viewed as a measure of Washignton’s determination to push back on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump denies that the aid freeze had anything to do with potentially procuring damaging information about Joe Biden
Reports emerged last week that a whistle-blower is alleging Trump’s July phone call with Zelensky included pressuring the Ukrainian leader to investigate Biden’s son Hunter for his involvement in a Ukrainian natural gas firm
The new information related to the conversation has moved more Democrats to call for impeachment – or at least say they would support the proceedings if the allegations were true.
Late Monday, an influential group of freshmen Democrats who served in the military and national security before winning office said Trump’s actions cut to the core of the country’s defenses. Their views, as centrist lawmakers from previously Republican-held districts where Trump has been popular, hold sway with party leadership.
The United States began providing military aid to the government of Ukraine shortly after Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.
With Ukraine’s new president, who assumed office in May, still grappling with separatist rebels in the east, the aid has long been viewed as a measure of Washington’s determination to push back against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Democrats, and some Republicans, have urged the White House to be open about Trump’s actions and turn over the whistle-blower complaint. But with no new information from the administration forthcoming, more than a dozen Democrats, including some in House leadership, added their names to those calling for impeachment proceedings.
The sudden rush of activity shows the extent to which Trump’s call to the foreign leader, and his subsequent comments about the conversation, are raising further questions about whether the president improperly used his office to pressure another country as a way of helping his own reelection prospects.
‘These allegations are stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent,’ the seven freshmen, who include a former Navy pilot, soldiers, officers and intelligence analysts, wrote in their Washington Post op/ed.
‘We do not arrive at this conclusion lightly,’ the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers include 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 and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.
‘These new allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect. We must preserve the checks and balances envisioned by the Founders and restore the trust of the American people in our government. And that is what we intend to do.’
Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Pelosi ally when he served with her in the House, said Tuesday: ‘President Trump’s actions are a threat to our democracy. His continued disregard for our Constitution and the democratic norms that guide our nation have caused irreparable harm to our country, our standing in the world, and to the Office of the Presidency.’
Congress on Monday pressed for full disclosure of a whistle-blower’s complaint about Trump and pushed the White House to release a transcript of Trump’s call with the Ukraine president.
The new allegations have brought around several lawmakers who have been reluctant to call for impeachment, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to admit this might be the ‘tipping point’ that leads to the proceedings if the nature of the phone call aligns with the whistle-blower’s complaint
Trump insists the phone call was centered around keeping foreign corruption, including from U.S. citizens, out of Ukraine. But the administration is blocking Congress from gaining access to the whistle-blower complaint and transcript of the conversation
The president has acknowledged the phone call, and on Monday admitted that he didn’t want to give money to Ukraine if there were corruption issues.
‘It’s very important to talk about corruption,’ Trump told reporters as he opened meetings at the United Nations. ‘If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is, is corrupt?’
Later Monday, Trump denied telling the Ukraine president that his country would only get U.S. aid if it investigated Biden’s son. ‘I didn’t do it,’ he said.
The fresh calls for impeachment proceedings come as House Democrats are heading into a closed-door meeting Tuesday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi and her leadership team on the various oversight committees are considering bringing forward a resolution that will put the House on the record on this matter, according to a Democratic leadership aide unauthorized to discuss the private talks. The aide was granted anonymity.
Still, Democrats remained divided on moving forward with an effort to impeach Trump. Pelosi has resisted calls for impeachment and is sticking with her position that Congress must not start formal proceedings unless the American public demands it.
However, Pelosi said Sunday that unless the administration provides more information to Congress by the scheduled Thursday hearing at the intelligence committee, its officials ‘will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation.’
Trump has sought, without evidence, to implicate Biden and his son Hunter in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire (pictured) has refused to share the complaint with lawmakers demanding it, citing presidential privilege. He is set to testify before the House on Thursday
Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.
The matter is under new scrutiny following the whistle-blower’s mid-August complaint, which followed Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president. But the person who filed the complaint did not have firsthand knowledge of the call, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Lawmakers are demanding details of the complaint, but 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.
‘Let’s see the transcript,’ said Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah regarding Trump’s call with the Ukraine president.
The chairmen of the House intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Government Reform committees are threatening to subpoena Secretary of State Mike Pompeo if he does not produce information about whether Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, inappropriately tried to influence the Ukraine government for political gain.
Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called on Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to investigate the whistle-blower’s complaint.
In a letter to McConnell, the New York senator said that the Republicans’ ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ attitude toward the president’s actions ‘is unacceptable and must change.’
Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida doesn’t think Trump’s actions are grounds for impeachment, but said he wouldn’t have called a foreign leader to discuss a rival.
‘I don’t think he should have raised the topic of Joe Biden with the Ukraine president,’ Rubio said.
McConnell said Monday the matter is best left behind closed doors in the classified setting of the intelligence committee, though he did push into the spotlight his own role in securing the Ukraine aid.
The Kentucky senator said he had been ‘personally pressuring’ the Trump administration this summer in calls to Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper to release the U.S. aid money.
Trump said Monday he may, or may not, release details or a transcript of the call but has stressed that foreign leaders should feel free to speak frankly with an American president without fear that the details of their conversations will later be disclosed.
Hunter Biden was hired by the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings in April 2014, two months after Ukraine’s Russia-friendly former president was ousted by protesters and as Biden’s father was heavily involved in U.S. efforts to support the new pro-Western government. The move immediately raised concerns that the Ukrainian firm, whose owner was a political ally of the ousted president, was seeking to gain influence with the Obama administration.
Trump and Zelensky plan to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly this week.