United States S House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the opening of a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, saying he had violated the constitution in seeking help from Ukraine to hurt Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
“The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable facts of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” she said.
“Therefore, today I’m announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.”
Top US Democrat Nancy Pelosi Tuesday announced the opening of a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, saying he betrayed his oath of office by seeking help from a foreign power to hurt his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
The dramatic move — the first step in a complex process that stands little chance of driving Trump from office — pushed US politics into a perilous new chapter just 14 months before new elections for control of the White House and Congress.
Following the bombshell developments from Trump Tower in New York — after addressing the UN General Assembly — the president denounced the inquiry as “Witch Hunt garbage” — while also claiming it would help his re-election chances in 2020.
“The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable facts of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi told a highly anticipated news conference in the US capital.
“Therefore, today I’m announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.”
Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and other Democratic Party leaders had resisted taking the step for months, preferring to focus on the coming election fight.
But a combination of the newest allegations that Trump offered Ukraine aid in return for help to damage Democratic White House frontrunner Biden, and a groundswell of support for impeachment among the party’s rank and file, appeared to tip the balance.
“The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law,” she said.
The ramped-up push for impeachment was fueled by a scandal over Trump’s reported attempt to pressure the incoming president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to open a corruption investigation into Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter, who had done business in the Eastern European country.
Triggering the confrontation was an as yet secret whistleblower complaint reportedly centered on Trump’s phone call July 25 with Zelensky.
Seeking to head off the looming impeachment threat, Trump announced Tuesday he would release the transcript of the call.
“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!” he tweeted.
Live news channels played Pelosi’s speech on TV over the lobby bar at Trump Tower, where the president retreated Tuesday afternoon after an intense day of UN diplomacy.
“PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” he lashed out on Twitter afterwards.
“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,” he wrote.
Trump has admitted discussing Biden with Zelensky, but denies he tied hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Kiev to it investigating the former US vice president.
On Tuesday the US leader said he had frozen aid to Ukraine, but only to force European allies to increase their own support for Zelensky’s government.
Biden backs impeachment
Trump’s decision to release the transcript was too little to appease Democrats, who are demanding the White House release to Congress the complaint from the intelligence community whistleblower, believed to contain additional evidence of wrongdoing.
Lawyers representing the whistleblower said in a statement on Tuesday that there had been a “decision to release the whistleblower complaint,” but did not provide further details.
Democrats also want more documents and testimony on other investigations into Trump, on allegations he obstructed justice, illegally profiteered from his position as US leader, colluded with Russia and other alleged abuses.
Setting up more Washington drama, senior Democrat Adam Schiff said the still-unidentified whistleblower, believed to work for one of the US government’s myriad intelligence bodies, could soon testify to the House Intelligence Committee, which he leads.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that intelligence and White House officials were working on a deal for the whistleblower to meet with congressional investigators.
Having held off for weeks, Biden himself declared Tuesday his support for an impeachment investigation.
“If he continues to obstruct Congress and flaunt the law, Donald Trump leaves Congress in my view no choice but to initiate impeachment,” Biden told a news conference. “That would be a tragedy, but a tragedy of his own making.”
Launching an impeachment probe is a politically perilous move, coming just as both parties begin to gear up for next year’s elections.
Now that a formal inquiry has been made, a committee would normally be assigned the task of gathering evidence to support the case against the president.
If the evidence is firm enough, the committee will draft articles of impeachment — formal charges against the president — for the entire House to vote on. They can pass with a simple majority.
From there the process would go to the Senate, where the Republican majority could conceivably block a formal trial of the president. If a trial is held, conviction would require two-thirds of the Senate to vote in support, leading to the president’s removal.
Nancy Pelosi is the most powerful woman in American politics and President Donald Trump’s most potent Democratic nemesis. The pair have sparred repeatedly, but the gloves really came off Wednesday.
Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, started the day with an emergency meeting of House Democrats, as the possibility of impeaching Trump swirled over Capitol Hill.
After the meeting, she said the Republican leader was “engaged in a cover-up” – a likely reference to his alleged obstruction of justice with respect to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Even though Mueller said he could not conclude that Trump actively attempted to thwart the probe, or conceal evidence of possible cooperation with Russia during his campaign, Democrats are unconvinced and are leading multiple investigations into his conduct.
Trump first hit back on Twitter, decrying a “Witch Hunt” against him and his administration, but his anger apparently got the better of him.
Then, he apparently shut down planned talks with Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer on an infrastructure initiative.
‘I Don’t Do Cover-ups’
And all of a sudden, journalists were hastily assembled in the White House Rose Garden for an unscheduled appearance by the 72-year-old president.
Trump did not hold back.
“Instead of walking in happily to a meeting, I walk in to look at people that just said that I was doing a cover-up. I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump boomed.
“Here is the bottom line – There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. (…) This whole thing was a takedown attempt at the president of the United States,” he said.
Trump then said he told Pelosi and Schumer: “So get these phony investigations over with.”
‘I Pray for The President’
Shortly thereafter, the Democratic leaders convened their own press conference.
Pelosi – whose slow, exaggerated clap for Trump at his last State of the Union went viral – said the president “took a pass” on collaborating with her party.
“And it just makes me wonder why he did that. In any event, I pray for the president of the United States and I pray for the United States of America,” she said.
Schumer chimed in on Trump’s appearance: “To watch what happened in the White House would make your jaw drop.”
Trump, not exactly known for letting others have the last word, clapped back on Twitter.
“So sad that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will never be able to see or understand the great promise of our Country,” he wrote.
“They can continue the Witch Hunt which has already cost $40M and been a tremendous waste of time and energy for everyone in America, or get back to work,” he added.
And with a final flourish, he addressed Pelosi: “Nancy, thank you so much for your prayers, I know you truly mean it!”
Top congressional Democrats said Sunday it was “urgent” that the full report on Russian interference in the 2016 US election be publicly released, stressing it does not exonerate President Donald Trump.
“The fact that Special Counsel (Robert) Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.
They also said Attorney General Bill Barr, nominated just months ago by Trump, is “not a neutral observer” in the process and that his summary of the report, delivered to Congress earlier, is not an objective determination about Mueller’s findings.
The two Democrats also said that Trump’s declaration that the report is a complete exoneration of the president because it clears him of colluding with Russia “directly contradicts the words of Mr Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility.”
Democratic leaders in United States Congress declared victory on Friday in a successful negotiation to reopen the US government after a record five-week closure — and took the opportunity to chide President Donald Trump for taking so long to reach a deal.
“Hopefully now the president has learned his lesson,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters shortly after Trump announced a deal that would temporarily reopen shuttered federal agencies, but does not include funds for the president’s long-requested border wall.
The partial government shutdown, the longest in American history, “will finally end today,” Schumer said, after the Senate and House quickly pass the legislation and send it to the president’s desk for his signature.
In the end, it was Trump who backed down in the 35-day battle of wills with his Democratic opponents in Congress, notably including Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives.
Pelosi joined Schumer in commending the deal but stopped short of reveling in seeing Trump drop his previous insistence on border wall funding.
“It’s sad, though, that it’s taken this long to come to an obvious conclusion,” she said.
“Disagreement in policy should never be a reason to shut down government.”
Democrats stood firm — and, importantly, largely united — in their opposition to funding for the wall on the US-Mexico border, which Trump insists is needed to tackle illegal immigration.
Border reinforcement will be a pivotal issue as both sides negotiate a deal in the coming weeks that will address border security and fund government through the remainder of the fiscal year.
Pelosi said she remained “optimistic” that a long-term deal will be reached.
Trump’s retreat clearly reinforces Pelosi’s reputation as a master political tactician, but she did not gloat.
“I don’t see this as any power play,” she said, declining to speculate on whether the president held out over wall funding to show who was in charge.
“Our unity is our power, and that is what, maybe, the president underestimated.”
Veteran Democratic lawmaker Nancy Pelosi was elected speaker of the House Thursday for the second time, calling for unity but acknowledging she had “no illusions” that working with Republicans will be easy in the era of Donald Trump.
Democrats have regained control of the House of Representatives in the new Congress, marking a dramatic power shift on Capitol Hill less than two years before the Republican president’s re-election bid.
The start of the new legislative session once again ushered in an era of divided government in Washington, with Democrats intent on checking Trump’s turbulent White House.
Several lawmakers cheered and applauded at length when Pelosi reclaimed the gavel — a striking comeback for the only woman ever to hold the post.
In her opening speech, Pelosi vowed the new Congress would be “bipartisan and unifying” but acknowledged the reality of Washington’s bitter divisions.
“We have no illusions that our work will be easy, that all of us in this chamber will always agree,” she said.
“But let each of us pledge that when we disagree, we will respect each other and we will respect the truth,” she added, in a likely dig at the president’s aggressive style and his propensity to embellish facts.
While the “blue wave” swept dozens of House Republicans out of Congress last November, Trump’s Republicans managed to modestly expand its majority in the Senate, meaning Washington gridlock is almost certain to deepen.
Vice President Mike Pence swore in the new senators — 53 Republicans hold the majority over 45 Democrats and two independents who align with them.
Among the newcomers is Senator Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee who has emerged as a Trump critic.
Pelosi’s reclaiming of the speaker’s gavel is a remarkable revival for a battle-tested politician.
Her first task will be to help end a partial federal government shutdown over Trump’s insistence that lawmakers fund a US-Mexico border wall, now in its 13th day. One quarter of federal agencies are shuttered due to lapsed funding.
Democrats will kick off the legislative work Thursday with a bipartisan bill from last month aimed at re-opening government — “to meet the needs of the American people, and to protect our borders,” she said.
But such cooperation across the political aisle appeared unlikely as Trump continued to dig in over his demand that Congress approve a $5 billion plan to construct a border wall aimed at thwarting illegal immigration — with Democrats unlikely to appease him.
After saying he remained “ready and willing to work with Democrats” late Wednesday, Trump lashed out Thursday.
“The Democrats know they can’t win (in 2020) based on all of the achievements of ‘Trump,’ so they are going all out on the desperately needed Wall and Border Security – and Presidential Harassment,” he tweeted. “For them, strictly politics!”
Top House Republican Kevin McCarthy said divided government was “no excuse for gridlock or inaction,” before handing the gavel to Pelosi, who was elected with 220 votes in a free-wheeling session that included children scampering in the chamber.
“We are at our best when we focus not on retribution, but on building a more perfect union,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats would have to “get serious about border security so that a government funding agreement may be reached that can pass the House, earn 60 votes here in the Senate, and receive a presidential signature.”
Not ‘stirring the pot’
Pelosi will preside over the most diverse Congress in history.
One hundred House freshmen took the oath of office, including trailblazers like New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who at 29 is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
The first two Native American women and first two Muslim women were also elected.
“It’s a new day in America,” tweeted Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee elected from Minnesota.
Progressives will be eager to push back with greater effect against an administration they believe has overstepped its authority.
They will have that opportunity, as congressional panels now led by Democrats are expected to unleash a barrage of investigations on everything from Trump’s income taxes to his ties with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
That is bad news for White House already besieged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia collusion probe.
And hovering in the background in Washington will be the threat of impeachment.
While it is almost certain that some Democrats will introduce proceedings to remove Trump from office, Pelosi has downplayed the idea.
“It would be very divisive,” she told Elle magazine. “It’s not something that I’m stirring the pot on.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for an independent commission to investigate possible ties between the Trump administration and Russia.
Pelosi said recent reports that President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer last year and email communication between the younger Trump about the meeting, raised serious questions about the administration’s ties to Moscow.
Pelosi accused Republicans of ignoring Democrats’ call for a vote regarding an independent commission.
“What do the Russians have politically, financially, or personally, on Donald Trump that he fawns over Putin, questions sanctions, and is reckless when it comes to Article 5 of NATO? The list goes on and on. The American people have a right to know. Maybe they’ll clear the air. Maybe it will be exculpatory, maybe it won’t.
“But we know one thing for sure, we have a responsibility and an oath of office to make sure that Russia does not meddle in our elections again and that would be the purpose of such an investigation. I mentioned calling upon the speaker to give us a vote on an independent commission.
“I also called for the revoking of the security clearance for Jared Kushner. It’s absolutely ridiculous that he should have…have that clearance. It’s not justified in any way.” she said
Democrats are also demanding that White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law have his security clearance revoked. Kushner was reported to have attended the meeting between Trump Jr., and the Russian lawyer.
That meeting was also attended by a Russian-American lobbyist who was a former Soviet counter-intelligence officer, NBC News reported on Friday.