WASHINGTON – After months of eschewing talk of impeaching President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday evening that the House will launch a formal impeachment inquiry.
“The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution – especially when the President says, ‘Article II says, I can do whatever I want,’ ” Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a news conference on Capitol Hill.
“The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law,” she said in a two-minute statement.
The announcement comes after reports that a whistleblower has come forward with a complaint about a July 25 phone conversation between Trump and then-newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Democrats allege Trump threatened to withhold $400 million in assistance to Ukraine unless Zelensky agreed to investigate the business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. The funds have since been released to Ukraine.
Trump has said he discussed Biden with Zelensky but that there was no quid pro quo.
On Tuesday afternoon Trump announced on Twitter that he plans to release a full unredacted transcript of the call on Wednesday.
Trump responded shortly after Pelosi’s announcement with a tweetstorm in which he blasted Democrats.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2019
Biden is the Democratic presidential frontrunner. He told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that Trump should be impeached if he does not agree to turn the whistleblower complaint over to Congress.
The Washington Post and CNN have reported that the White House and Justice Department told acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire not to share the complaint with lawmakers.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted Tuesday that the whistleblower’s attorney has said his client wishes to speak with the committee and is seeking guidance from Maguire on how to do so.
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
Maguire is scheduled to testify in open session before the committee on Thursday.
The Senate on Tuesday afternoon adopted a resolution proposed by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that calls for the whistleblower complaint to be transmitted to both the Senate and House intelligence committees.
On Wednesday the House is scheduled to vote on a similar resolution.
Even if the House votes to impeach Trump, the effort is likely to die in the Republican-controlled Senate — where a two-thirds vote is required for conviction and removal from office.