UPDATE, 6:55 p.m. PT: The White House is preparing to release the whistleblower complaint that led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to launch an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, according to a number of news outlets.
The Senate unanimously agreed to a resolution calling for the complaint to be turned over to intelligence committees.
PREVIOUSLY, 2:07 p.m. PT: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday announced that she is launching an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, after the revelation that he asked a foreign leader to investigate the son of Joe Biden, a potential political rival in 2020.
Standing before a row of American flags in the nation’s capital, Pelosi said, in an announcement carried across the broadcast and cable networks, “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”
Throughout the day, the news networks built up anticipation to Pelosi’s 5 p.m. ET announcement. First came coverage of a Q&A that Pelosi had at The Atlantic Festival, where she kept her comments to a minimum. Then reporters staked out in the basement of the Capitol, where Pelosi was meeting with members of the Democratic caucus to decide on next steps. In the corner of the screen, CNN even ran a rising tally of the number of Democrats who supported impeachment. Finally came Pelosi’s speech itself, carried on news networks and broadcast network special reports.
Up until now, Pelosi has resisted calls to impeach Trump, leaving it to six House committees to conduct a series of wide-ranging inquiries into Trump’s actions, including that covered in the Mueller report.
But that has changed with the revelation earlier this month that a whistleblower sounded the alarm over a conversation that Trump reportedly had with the president of the Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, last July. Trump has admitted that he asked Zelensky to investigate Biden and the former vice president’s son, Hunter, was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. But he has denied that he put pressure on Zelensky to conduct a probe at the risk of losing U.S. foreign aid.
Pelosi noted that just the facts that Trump admitted to are concerning, as he asked Zelensky to take actions “that would benefit him politically.”
“The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said.
“Therefore, today, I am announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. I am directing our six Committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.”
She also said that the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph McGuire, will testify in the House on Thursday. He so far has declined to release the whistleblower complaint to Congress, but Pelosi said that it was essential that he do so.
“He will have to choose whether to break the law or honor his responsibility to the Constitution,” she said.
Trump quickly responded on Twitter, unleashing four tweets in a matter of minutes.
“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. So bad for our Country!” Trump said.
“Pelosi, Nadler, Schiff and, of course, Maxine Waters! Can you believe this?”
“They never even saw the transcript of the call. A total Witch Hunt!”
Earlier in the day, Trump said that he was authorizing the release of the transcript of his call with Zelensky on Wednesday. But that is different from the release of the whistleblower complaint to Congress.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy blasted Pelosi for announcing the opening of the impeachment inquiry, suggesting that it was an effort to overturn the results of the 2016 election.
In contrast to the Mueller investigation, the story of the whistleblower complaint has unfolded quickly. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced that he was issuing a subpoena to obtain the whistleblower complaint, but the contents were unknown. Then, last week, The Washington Post reported that the complaint had to do with the concern that the whistleblower had with a conversation that Trump had with a foreign leader.
That propelled the story to the top of the media’s fixation.
The story gained greater traction after the inspector general of the intelligence services, Michael Atkinson, revealed to Schiff that he found the whistleblower complaint “urgent” and “credible.” But Schiff said that the Justice Department had blocked its release to Congress, adding to the mystery over its contents.
In her appearance at The Atlantic Festival, Pelosi said that she found problematic just what Trump had admitted to — seeking help from a foreign power against a potential political opponent.
“That is self evident. It is not right,” she said. “We don’t ask foreign governments to help in our election.”
An impeachment inquiry does not necessarily mean that it will lead to a vote on the floor of the House. But it is a rarity in U.S. history. Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached in 1868, but the Senate failed to convict him and he remained in office. Bill Clinton also was impeached in 1998, but was acquitted in the Senate. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before a vote on articles of impeachment in the House.
Pelosi’s full speech is below.
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