House Opens Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Live Updates

House Opens Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Live Updates

Hours after Democrats began a formal impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, President Trump prepared on Wednesday morning to release the transcript of a July 25 call he had with Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine. Mr. Trump has defiantly denied saying anything inappropriate on the call, even as he acknowledged pushing Mr. Zelensky for an investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and one of his chief rivals.

On Wednesday morning, he declared on Twitter that Democrats had fallen into his trap, and that the release of the transcript would exonerate him — and make them look foolish.

Still, in the face of bipartisan calls from members of Congress, Mr. Trump ordered the Wednesday release of the transcript, ensuring a day of intense scrutiny into his conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart. The decision did not go far enough for many Democrats, who have demanded to see the full complaint about Mr. Trump’s actions lodged by a whistle-blower, which has not been shared with Congress.

As a result, White House officials were continuing to work on a deal that would allow the whistle-blower to testify before Congress about those concerns, according to people briefed on the effort. The deal could also include the release of a redacted version of the complaint, which formed the basis of a report by the inspector general for the intelligence community, people familiar with the situation said.

The House plans to vote on Wednesday afternoon on a resolution condemning the Trump administration for withholding the whistle-blower complaint and demanding that Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, promptly furnish it.

The resolution also demands that Mr. Maguire ensure that the whistle-blower is protected from retribution and chastises the president for comments disparaging the whistle-blower in recent days.

The vote is symbolic, but Democratic leaders want to put lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — on record to highlight their case. Sharing the complaint with Congress is already required by law, Democrats assert.

“This is not a partisan matter; it’s about the integrity of our democracy, respect for the rule of law and defending our Constitution,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, her No. 2, said in a statement on Tuesday. “We hope that all members of the House — Democrats and Republicans alike — will join in upholding the rule of law and oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution as representatives of the American people.”

In late July, as Congress was heading off for its long summer break, the House Judiciary Committee filed an extraordinary legal brief as Democrats sought information on potential presidential malfeasance. It declared an impeachment inquiry had begun:

“The House must have access to all the relevant facts and consider whether to exercise all its full Article I powers, including a constitutional power of the utmost gravity — approval of articles of impeachment.”

So what changed when Speaker Pelosi declared on Tuesday that the House was indeed launching an impeachment inquiry? Not a lot.

Ms. Pelosi’s words gave the inquiry momentum and political potency. But the investigations that she was empowering six committees to pursue they have been pursuing for months. And unlike the impeachment processes that were initiated against Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, the one begun against Mr. Trump — either in July or on Tuesday — was not launched by a vote in the full House. Republicans, such as Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, are goading Democratic leaders to hold that vote, to put moderate Democrats representing Republican-leaning districts on record supporting the inquiry.

That could still happen. For now, however, Ms. Pelosi seems content to put her weight behind a declaration already made by her Judiciary Committee chairman nearly two months ago.

The political fallout from revelations about Mr. Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president, Mr. Zelensky, came as the two men were scheduled to meet in person on Wednesday afternoon on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Mr. Zelensky was scheduled to deliver remarks to world leaders at 9 a.m. Wednesday. And he was expected to sit down with Mr. Trump at 2:15 p.m., even as details about the July 25 call were revealed publicly.

At the center of the controversy surrounding Mr. Trump is whether he pressed Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden and whether Mr. Trump directed the United States to withhold aid for Ukraine until Mr. Zelensky agreed to his demands.

In an interview on Tuesday with Voice of America, Mr. Zelensky said that he expected the conversation on Wednesday afternoon to be “very warm” and that he respected Mr. Trump. “We just want the U.S. to always support Ukraine and Ukraine’s course in its fight against aggression and war,” Mr. Zelensky said. “It seems to me that it is so.”

Mr. Trump will face reporters in a formal news conference Wednesday afternoon, providing a high-profile forum for questions about his role in the telephone call with Ukraine’s president that is at the center of the Democratic impeachment effort.

Presidents historically hold a formal news conference at the end of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Often, such events are a president’s primary opportunity to shape the perception of their actions during the meetings with world leaders.

In Mr. Trump’s case, the news conference is likely to be one of many opportunities for the president to make his views known. He typically will respond to questions from reporters throughout the day, before and after bilateral discussions with world leaders. And, of course, the president started tweeting his thoughts about the Democrats first thing Wednesday morning.


Related Articles