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Democrats start Trump impeachment probe

By Heng Weili in New York and Zhao Huanxin in Washington | China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-26 08:06

Republican president calls US House's drive 'positive', yet tweets with fury

Democrats made their move against US President Donald Trump on Tuesday, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives will open an impeachment inquiry over a phone call Trump had with Ukraine's president in which former vice-president Joe Biden and his son were reportedly discussed.

"The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution," Pelosi said after meeting with House Democrats at the Capitol. "The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law."

The phone conversation was reported to be included in a whistleblower complaint that the Trump administration has not turned over to Congress, although a news report on Tuesday said the White House would release it.

Democrats start Trump impeachment probe

The impeachment probe will center on whether Trump sought help from a foreign government in his bid for reelection next year. Biden is now a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

While Trump admits that he discussed Biden with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the July 25 phone call, he has focused instead on alleging that Biden tried to halt a Ukrainian probe of Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company. Biden's son, Hunter, served on Burisma's board of directors from 2014 to 2019.

Trump, who was meeting with world leaders at the United Nations on Tuesday, said the impending inquiry would be a "positive for me".

Shortly after Pelosi's announcement, Trump took to Twitter to respond. "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!" he tweeted.


"They never even saw the transcript of the call..."

"Secretary of State Pompeo received permission from Ukraine Government to release the transcript of the telephone call I had with their President. They don't know either what the big deal is. A total Witch Hunt Scam by the Democrats!"

Trump said a "complete, fully declassified and unredacted" transcript of the phone call would be released on Wednesday.

The president also confirmed he had withheld nearly $400 million in US aid to Ukraine but denied he did so to get Zelenskiy to initiate an investigation that could damage Biden politically.

Trump said the transcript would show the call was "totally appropriate" and that there had been no "quid pro quo" for US aid in exchange for a probe.

The US Senate, by a 100-0 vote, passed a nonbinding resolution on Tuesday urging the administration to release the whistleblower complaint.

"We know that the executive branch is blocking the legislative branch, a coequal branch of our government, from performing its constitutional oversight duties," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said. "The fact that the whistleblower complaint concerns our national security, our foreign policy, and potential misconduct by the president makes the situation even more serious."

Later on Tuesday, the Politico news website, citing a senior Trump administration official, reported that the White House would release the whistleblower report to Congress by the end of the week.

'Rush to judgment'

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, called the initiation of the inquiry "a rush to judgment" and said the Democrats should have waited until after details of the phone call were revealed.

"It simply confirms that House Democrats' priority is not making life better for the American people, but their nearly three-year-old fixation on impeachment," McConnell said in a statement.

In the House, Pelosi said the six congressional committees currently investigating Trump would continue with their probes as part of the impeachment inquiry.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said his panel was communicating with an attorney representing the whistleblower, and that the individual would like to testify this week.

Biden commented on Tuesday on the inquiry from Wilmington, Delaware.

"If he continues to obstruct Congress and flout the law, Donald Trump will leave Congress in my view with no choice but to initiate impeachment proceedings," Biden said.

Cal Jillson, a political scientist and historian at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, told China Daily: "The Democrats are starting down a road without knowing for sure where it leads.

"Nonetheless, instituting a formal impeachment inquiry will strengthen their hand in demanding information to clarify exactly what has happened between Trump and Zelenskiy," Jillson said.

He said that the impeachment inquiry at first could further divide the public, but its ultimate impact will be determined by what facts emerge and how the voters interpret them, in regard to next year's election.

William C. Banks, a law professor at New York's Syracuse University, told China Daily: "If the allegations are true, the abuse of power is significant, and many members of Congress will be motivated to conduct impeachment proceedings." He is the co-author of a 1994 book about tensions between the executive and legislative branches, National Security Law and the Power of the Purse.

As for the impact on the 2020 election, Banks said: "It's too early to say. It could be the beginning of the end for President Trump, or the proceedings could backfire and propel Trump to reelection."

Most Democratic presidential contenders support the impeachment inquiry, including US senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar; former US representative Beto O'Rourke; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and former US secretary of housing and urban Development Julian Castro. US Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who announced on Tuesday that she had the necessary polling numbers to qualify for the October Democratic debates, opposes the inquiry.

If the Democratic-controlled House votes to impeach Trump, the Republican-majority Senate would have to take the next step of holding a trial. A conviction would require a two-thirds majority in the Senate to remove the president from office.

It would be the first impeachment inquiry in Congress since the 1998 probe of Bill Clinton on perjury and obstruction of justice allegations in relation to his affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

Reuters contributed to this story.

Contact the writers at

(China Daily 09/26/2019 page12)

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