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Pelosi launches formal Trump impeachment inquiry

Pelosi launches formal Trump impeachment inquiry

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House is launching a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, setting up a dramatic constitutional clash just over a year before the presidential election.

"Today I'm announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry," Pelosi said in a scathing statement at the Capitol late Tuesday afternoon.

The speaker has long resisted calls from many progressive lawmakers to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president, but Democrats appear to have reached a breaking point over the administration's refusal to hand over a whistleblower complaint related to Mr. Trump's interaction with a foreign leader.

"This week, the president has admitted to asking the president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically," Pelosi said. "The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable facts of the president's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reads a statement announcing a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, September 24, 2019. Andrew Harnik / AP

The current furor stems from a call Mr. Trump made to the president of Ukraine in July, in which he admitted discussing Joe Biden in the context of fighting "corruption" in the country. Mr. Trump and his allies, in particular personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, have accused Biden of pushing for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor while he was vice president in order to benefit his son. The prosecutor was widely seen as corrupt, and no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden has emerged.

One after another on Monday and Tuesday, Democrats from vulnerable House districts who had been resisting previous calls for impeachment came out in favor of initiating impeachment proceedings, citing concerns over Mr. Trump's potential pressuring of a foreign leader to investigate a domestic political opponent.

The president directed his acting chief of staff to hold off on releasing nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine shortly before the call in July, according to a senior administration official with direct knowledge of the administration's actions.

Mr. Trump, who is in New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, reacted angrily to Pelosi's statement, calling it a "total Witch Hunt!" Earlier in the day he said he would release the transcript of the call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that is part of the whistleblower complaint.

"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 tweeted Tuesday afternoon.

That concession, however, appeared unlikely to temper Democrats' demands for the complaint itself. Congressman Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the whistleblower wants to testify before the committee. Schiff tweeted that the whistleblower's testimony could come "as soon as this week."
Follow along with live updates below
Judiciary Committee to take the lead in impeachment inquiry

5:43 p.m.: Pelosi said the House Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Jerry Nadler, will take the lead in the impeachment proceedings, consolidating information from the six committees which have been investigating the president.

At the earlier meeting with House Democrats, Pelosi told the leaders of these six committees to determine their best cases for impeachment and send that information to the Judiciary Committee, according to The New York Times.

"I'm directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry," Pelosi said in her announcement.

Pelosi also thanked the chairs of the committees: Nadler, Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee, Eliot Engel of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Elijah Cummings of the Oversight Committee, Richard Neal of the Ways and Means Committee and Maxine Waters of the Financial Services Committee.
Trump reacts to impeachment inquiry: "A total Witch Hunt!"

5:19 p.m.: The president reacted angrily to Pelosi's statement:

    Pelosi, Nadler, Schiff and, of course, Maxine Waters! Can you believe this?
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2019

    They never even saw the transcript of the call. A total Witch Hunt!
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2019

Senate unanimously passes resolution demanding whistleblower complaint

4:45 p.m.: The Republican-led Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling on the acting director of national intelligence to provide the whistleblower complaint to the intelligence committees.

The administration has so far refused to provide the complaint to Congress, saying the report does not constitute an "urgent concern" requiring congressional notification.

The upper chamber adopted the resolution introduced by Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer by voice vote on Tuesday afternoon.

The resolution says the House and Senate Intelligence Committees "should be allowed to evaluate the complaint in a deliberate and bipartisan manner consistent with applicable statutes and processes in order to safeguard classified and sensitive information."
Nearly three-quarters of House Democrats back impeachment

4:39 p.m.: Roughly 170 Democratic lawmakers in the House have said they either support impeachment proceedings or have signaled they are open to them, according to a CBS News tally.

Support for impeachment has steadily grown over the past several months and spiked in the past several days, with several dozen members coming out in favor of or open to proceeding with an inquiry.

House to vote on whistleblower resolution on Wednesday

4:08 p.m.: The House will vote on a resolution condemning the administration's refusal to give Congress the whistleblower report, Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said ahead of Tuesday's Democratic caucus meeting.

"It is imperative that the Acting Director of National Intelligence provide Congress the complaint, as specified under the law, and all requests for documents and testimony relating to this allegation," the leaders said in a statement. "On Wednesday, the House will vote on a resolution making it clear Congress's disapproval of the Administration's effort to block the release of the complaint and the need to protect the whistleblower."

Pelosi and Hoyer called on Republicans to join Democrats in "upholding the rule of law and oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution as Representatives of the American people."
Biden calls Trump a threat to the "core values of this nation"
Biden says Trump should be impeached if he doesn't comply with Congress

3:45 p.m.: The former vice president made a brief statement from Wilmington, Delaware, saying that the president is trying to smear him with false accusations. Biden said Congress has "no choice" but to launch impeachment proceedings if the administration doesn't hand over the whistleblower complaint and other material.

"Congress, in my view, should demand the information it has a legal right to receive. If the president does not comply, with such a request from the Congress, if he continues to obstruct Congress and flout the law, Donald Trump will leave Congress, in my view, no choice but to initiate impeachment," Biden said. "That would be a tragedy, but a tragedy of his own making."