Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House of Representatives is opening an impeachment inquiry against President Trump amid new revelations about Trump’s attempt to leverage foreign aid to push Ukraine to investigate a potential presidential rival.
“The president must be held accountable, and no one is above the law,” Pelosi said Tuesday afternoon, shortly after a private meeting with the Democratic caucus. Moments before Pelosi’s announcement, the Senate unanimously supported a non-binding resolution calling on the White House to release the whistle-blower complaint.
Earlier Tuesday, Pelosi asked the six committee chairs investigating President Trump to send their most persuasive evidence for impeachment to the Judiciary Committee, which will review and decide whether to draft articles of impeachment.
“I did not hear one word of dissent” in the caucus meeting about moving impeachment investigation forward Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) told Rolling Stone.
The announcement came after a slew of caucus members called for impeachment or an impeachment inquiry on Monday night and Tuesday. “I’ve said to people, as soon as we have the facts, we’re ready,” Pelosi told Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg during a previously scheduled appearance at the Atlantic Festival earlier on Tuesday. “Now we have the facts. We’re ready.”
Pelosi’s announcement comes hours after President Trump tweeted he has authorized the release of a transcript of his call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. “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!” the president wrote. Democrats, though, want more: the whistle-blower’s complaint, any documentation related to the acting director of national intelligence’s decision to withhold the complaint, and any communication with the White House about the complaint.
Joe Biden, who previously called impeachment a “gigantic distraction,” said Tuesday that if Trump doesn’t fully comply with all investigations — including releasing the whistle-blower’s full complaint, not just the transcript of the Ukraine call — Congress will have no choice but to launch an impeachment inquiry. (Biden’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Elizabeth Warren, who previously called for the House to begin impeachment proceedings, repeated that call on Tuesday, declaring: “The House must impeach. It must start today.”)
Multiple news outlets have confirmed that, on the call with Zelensky, Trump repeatedly raised the prospect of an investigation into Biden’s dealings in Ukraine during his time as vice president, according to a whistle-blower.
Further revelations surfaced Monday night indicating Trump ordered acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to withhold $400 million in military aid for Ukraine a week before the phone call with the Ukrainian president. According to the Washington Post, which first reported the news, “officials were instructed to tell lawmakers that the delays were part of an ‘interagency process’ but to give them no additional information.”
The funds were not released until the night of September 11th, one day after Rep. Adam Schiff, head of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote to Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, requesting a slate of documents, the full and unredacted whistle-blower complaint, and any correspondence about the complaint, including with the White House. Maguire is now scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
Schiff on Tuesday afternoon revealed the news on Twitter that the whistle-blower’s lawyer has indicated he would be willing to testify before the Intel committee as soon as this week.
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 DNI 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.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) September 24, 2019
Following the latest round of revelations, a series of Democrats — many of them swept into Congress in the 2018 midterm elections — stepped forward to support impeachment.
Among those who signaled their support for opening an impeachment inquiry Tuesday are civil rights leader John Lewis, all four newly elected Texas representatives, freshman Rep. Katie Hill of California, and Rep. Antonio Delgado — a freshman from a swing district in upstate New York that went for President Trump by nearly 7 points.
“Similar to how a select committee was established during Watergate, the Speaker should appoint a bipartisan select committee to immediately investigate abuse of executive power,” Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a co-chair of the Blue Dog caucus, tweeted on Tuesday. “We must uncover all the facts and provide answers to the American people.”
Those announcements Tuesday followed separate statements issued Monday night from close allies of Speaker Pelosi, like Rep. Rosa DeLauro; cautious Midwesterners, like Rep. Debbie Dingell and Rep. Elissa Slotikin; and seven freshman Democrats, all of whom also hail from swing districts and who voiced their concerns in an op-ed published in the Washington Post Monday night.
The seven first-term lawmakers, all former members of the national security community, called the allegations “stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent,” adding, “This flagrant disregard for the law cannot stand…If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense.”
Democrats have been divided on impeachment. The party’s most progressive voters are in support, but until today, party leaders and vulnerable House members in swing seats, had been reticent. Compounding matters is the fact that impeachment, if it does succeed in the House, is extremely unlikely to oust Trump from office. Successfully removing the president would require a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate, which is why some Democrats have remained adamant the party should focus instead on removing Trump via the 2020 election.
But that political calculus appears to be changing quickly, and Tuesday represents a turning point. Pelosi is scheduled to meet with six chairs whose committees are investigating Trump before a private meeting with the Democratic caucus in the afternoon. On Tuesday morning, three of those committee chairmen — Schiff of the Intelligence Committee, Elijah Cummings of the Oversight Committee, and Eliot Enge of the Foreign Affairs committee — formally demanded the White House turn over any documentation regarding Trump’s “efforts to influence a foreign country to interfere with our upcoming election, which the Chairmen noted would amount to a gross abuse of power.”
Trump confirmed that he withheld military aid for Ukraine on Tuesday morning, shortly before he was scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly. Trump is also scheduled to meet with Zelensky at the U.N. this week.
With additional reporting by Andy Kroll.