The House will start an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump as a swell of Democrats denounce the president over alleged abuses of power, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday.
Gathering pressure finally broke through the speaker’s reluctance to start impeachment proceedings. Concerns have mounted about the president’s efforts to push Ukraine to investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his top rivals for the presidency in 2020. At least 174 House members have now backed some action on impeachment. The number ballooned this week as centrist Democrats and vulnerable freshman lawmakers joined their ranks.
“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 integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said in remarks to the nation.”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 investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.”
Pelosi announced the inquiry after huddling with key House committee chairs, the Democratic leadership team and finally her entire caucus. Her change of heart on the issue came quickly. The speaker has long called impeachment “divisive” as her party tries not to rile up Republican voters ahead of a 2020 election in which Democrats hope to keep their House majority and deny Trump a second term in the White House.
Trump quickly fired off four tweets in response to Pelosi. He saw the inquiry as another Democratic attempt to unfairly target him and distract from his successes in office. The president used the familiar “witch hunt” and “presidential harassment” refrains he deployed during the investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and his possible obstruction of the probe.
“So bad for our country!” Trump wrote of the impeachment proceedings.
In the meeting with her caucus, Pelosi cited national security concerns in moving forward, according to NBC News. She called it a “moment of truth.” The speaker also told lawmakers the House would not set up a select committee on impeachment.
Democrats will take a rare step by starting the formal process of removing a president from office. Only three American presidents before Trump have faced serious impeachment proceedings, and Congress has never booted one from the White House. Even if Democrats eventually impeach Trump, the GOP-held Senate may never find him guilty and remove him from office.
Even so, the announcement marks a dramatic turn for the Democratic-held House. Pelosi held off calls to impeach the president after the special counsel’s two-year Russia probe.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announces the House of Representatives will launch a formal inquiry into the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump following a closed House Democratic caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 24, 2019.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
But the president’s reported pressure on Ukraine moved even reluctant Democrats toward impeachment. During a July phone call, Trump pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky multiple times to probe the business dealings of Biden’s son, Hunter, according to multiple reports. Some reports suggested Trump held up aid to Ukraine as he pushed for an investigation into Biden.
The call is believed to be part of an intelligence community whistleblower complaint that congressional Democrats have urged the Trump administration to make available. In tweets Tuesday, Trump said the call was “totally appropriate.”
The president added that he authorized the release Wednesday of a complete transcript. After Pelosi announced the start of impeachment proceedings, the president lamented that Democrats had not seen the transcript.
Democrats have called to see the full complaint, saying it would hold key details about what alarmed the whistleblower not contained in the call transcript. In her remarks Tuesday, Pelosi said acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire must release the complaint when he appears in congressional testimony Thursday. She called it a “violation of the law” to block release of the document.
The House plans to vote Wednesday on a nonbinding resolution disapproving of the Trump administration’s refusal to release the whistleblower complaint. The Senate unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday calling for the document’s release.
New calls to start impeachment proceedings came from across the House Democratic caucus this week. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon who has represented Georgia in the House for more than 30 years, announced his support for an inquiry in a floor speech Tuesday.
So did seven first-term lawmakers who won swing districts last year. The lawmakers, who have military and intelligence backgrounds, cited national security concerns in backing impeachment.
Trump spent his Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly, delivering a speech on his trade war with China and other foreign policy issues. Even so, he addressed the prospect of impeachment as reports emerged that the House would start an inquiry.
“If [Pelosi] does that, they all say that’s a positive for me” in the 2020 election, he said, according to a White House pool reporter.
The House GOP’s campaign arm also argued the move would backfire on Democrats.
“Make no mistake about it: backing impeachment will cost the Democrats their majority in 2020,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Ind., said in a statement.
In typical proceedings, the House Judiciary Committee investigates and then can recommend articles of impeachment to the full chamber. With a simple majority vote, the House can effectively indict the president.
The Senate would then hold a trial where the Supreme Court chief justice presides. The chamber would need a two-thirds majority vote to convict the president and remove him from office.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.
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