Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday evening that the House will launch a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
The decision, which follows months of Pelosi's urging caution on the issue, stemmed largely from revelations that a whistleblower had claimed that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and allegedly tied Congressionally allocated U.S. military aid to the matter.
“The president must be held accountable; no one is above the law,” Pelosi said in a live address on Capitol Hill. The Speaker added that Trump’s conduct has been a “betrayal of his oath of office” and a “betrayal of our national security.”
Trump immediately responded, saying on Twitter that the impeachment announcement was “Witch Hunt garbage” and “bad for our Country!”
Talk of impeachment among Democrats spiked in April after Special Counsel Robert Mueller released his report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections, which revealed that the Trump campaign was open to Russian assistance. Yet these new reports, if true, would implicate the White House in trying to enlist support from another foreign government to hurt a political opponent, and have pushed party leadership to pursue impeachment.
On Monday, seven other freshman Democrats, all of whom are intelligence, defense, and military veterans, published an op-ed which called for impeachment, writing that Trump's actions, if confirmed, are "a threat to all we have sworn to protect." Over two-thirds of House Democrats so far have publicly called for impeachment proceedings.
The controversy surrounding the call came to light earlier this month after reports surfaced that a whistleblower in the intelligence community had filed a complaint regarding Trump's conduct during a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July. The Washington Post has reported that the whistleblower claimed Trump urged Zelensky to launch a corruption probe into Hunter Biden, the former vice president's son who previously served on the board of a major Ukrainian gas company.
The situation escalated after further reports said the administration actively blocked the whistleblower’s complaint from being delivered to Congress and that military aid to Ukraine was put on hold prior to the call.
On Tuesday, the president confirmed he personally put the aid in question on hold but said he did so out of frustration that European allies were not providing enough support to Ukraine. Trump also said that the White House will release the transcript of the call on Wednesday, tweeting that the records will show that the call was “very friendly and totally appropriate.”
In a brief speech from Wilmington, Delaware before Pelosi’s announcement, Biden said that withholding aid for political purposes, if confirmed, is “an abuse of power” and “strikes at the heart of the sworn responsibility a president has to put national interest before personal interest." The former vice president added that Trump’s obstruction has left Congress with “no choice” but to impeach.
Trump reiterated on Twitter that the scandal is “nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!” Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee added that “first it was the Russia hoax. Now it's the Ukrainian hoax.”
People watch Speaker Nancy Pelosi announce a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump in the Trump Tower bar in New York. Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock
Pelosi’s decision was widely applauded by 2020 Democrats, progressive groups, and corruption watchdog groups.
Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — better known as CREW — lauded Pelosi’s decision, saying in a statement the Trump “has not merely crossed the line, he has crossed the Rubicon.”
On Wednesday, the House will vote on a resolution to officially proclaim Congress’ disapproval of the Trump administration's efforts to block the complaint and stress the need to protect the whistleblower. “This is not a partisan matter, it’s about the integrity of our democracy, respect for the rule of law and defending our Constitution,” Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a joint statement.
In her remarks Tuesday, Pelosi also demanded that Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, turn over the full whistleblower complaint to Congress during his scheduled testimony on Thursday.