WASHINGTON — It’s official: President Donald Trump is the subject of a U.S. House impeachment inquiry.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced Tuesday that the majority-Democrat chamber is moving forward with an “official impeachment inquiry” into the president in the wake of reports that he pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who could be his chief 2020 rival.
“The president must be held accountable; no one is above the law,” Pelosi said after a meeting Tuesday afternoon with the House Democratic caucus.
“The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the constitution,” she added. She said she had directed six committee leaders already investigating the president to continue under the framework of a formal impeachment inquiry.
The announcement came after escalating pressure within the Democratic caucus to launch an official impeachment probe, a topic that has divided the caucus so far this year.
Some Democrats have been pushing for impeachment for months, but many moderates and leaders of the party were reluctant to take what could be a politically perilous route for some. But in light of recent reports about Trump pressuring the Ukrainian president, moderate Democrats and leaders said there was no alternative to impeachment proceedings.
According to The New York Times, 180 members of the House backed an impeachment inquiry by Tuesday evening, representing more than two-thirds of the Democratic caucus and one independent lawmaker, Justin Amash from Michigan. Impeachment backers would need 218 votes for the House to approve articles of impeachment.
If these allegations are true and the administration continues to withhold the whistleblower complaint at the heart of this matter, I will support an impeachment inquiry.
— Rep. Susan Wild (@RepSusanWild) September 24, 2019
House lawmakers said they expect the chamber to move forward rapidly on the matter, although the exact timeline remains unclear. The House is slated to go on recess for the next two weeks.
On Tuesday night, as she left a closed-door meeting, U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th District, said Congress had reached a turning point, the Morning Call of Allentown, reported.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is expected to testify before the House Intelligence Committee Thursday. Lawmakers have demanded he turn over a whistleblower’s complaint related to Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president. House Democrats announced a vote Wednesday on a resolution expressing disapproval over the administration blocking the release of the complaint.
Democrats stressed that the Ukraine controversy offers a clear trigger for the impeachment inquiry that isn’t as complicated as some of their other allegations, like accusations that Trump has violated the emoluments clause or claims that he obstructed justice.
Writing on Twitter, U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, said Trump had “betrayed his oath of office.”
The President has betrayed his oath of office.
Our Speaker and our Caucus are united in our impeachment inquiry against the grievous wrongdoing of a President who puts himself and his personal political gain over national security and the rule of law.
— Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (@RepDean) September 24, 2019
U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, who, like Dean, serves on the House Judiciary Committee, said Congress has “a constitutional duty to hold this president accountable.”
We have a constitutional duty to hold this president accountable and we must. 2/2
— Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (@RepMGS) September 24, 2019
U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District, said Trump had forced Congress’ hand.
“An allegation of trying to use the power of the presidency against another country, in the context of withholding funds that Congress approved, to create dirt on a political opponent – this is incredibly serious and must be investigated,” Evans said in a statement.
“Let’s be clear: I have been for impeachment since 2017 – as more and more members have come to see, Trump’s actions have forced our hand. It is our duty. A president must be held to a high standard. The soul of America is at stake,” Evans concluded.
Impeachment prospects in the Senate are far from certain. It appears highly unlikely that the GOP-controlled chamber would vote to convict Trump after an impeachment trial, if the proceedings went that far.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Democrats of an “obsession with relitigating 2016” on Tuesday.
He said Pelosi’s announcement “confirms that House Democrats’ priority is not making life better for the American people but their nearly three-year-old fixation on impeachment.”
Meanwhile, the Senate voted unanimously Tuesday for the whistleblower complaint to be turned over to congressional intelligence committees.
Writing on Twitter, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., called on the White House to turn over the full report. Anything less “is unacceptable,” Casey said.
The Administration needs to hand over the full whistleblower complaint- that’s what the law requires and what the American people deserve. Anything less is unacceptable https://t.co/BFd2hsde10
— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) September 24, 2019
As impeachment talk dominated Capitol Hill, Trump tweeted Tuesday, “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” and “total Witch Hunt Scam by the Democrats.” Trump also said he authorized the release of the transcript of his call.
House Republicans similarly decried Democrats’ decision to plow ahead with impeachment proceedings.
U.S. Rep. John Joyce, D-13th District, denounced what he said were the Democrats’ “endless” investigations.
“Time and again, House Democrats have proven that they prioritize endless investigations over meaningful legislation – always to the detriment of the American people. Rather than squander the balance of the 116th Congress on politically-motivated impeachment proceedings, I encourage House Democrats to remember their commitment to serve those whom they represent,” Joyce said in a statement released his by his office.
Freshman U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-12th District, said much the same.
“Engaging in an ‘impeachment inquiry’ is code word for continuing the type of costly investigations that have led this nation down an empty rabbit hole time and again,” Keller said in a statement. “Ever since the 2016 election results came in, Democrats and never-Trumpers have been determined at any cost to delegitimize our duly elected President. Enough is enough. The American people are tired of this charade. It’s time for Congress to focus on real action on legislation that would benefit the American people.”