House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who for months resisted efforts to launch impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, announced a formal inquiry on Tuesday, saying that the president’s burgeoning Ukraine scandal marked a “breach of his Constitutional responsibilities.”
“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 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,” she continued. “Therefore, today I am announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.”
Pelosi’s change of heart comes as dozens of House Democrats — now more than two-thirds of the caucus — have come out in support of an impeachment inquiry in the wake of reports that Trump may have withheld aid to Ukraine to pressure officials there to investigate the son of political rival Joe Biden.
Trump, for his part, told reporters that an impeachment inquiry would help him in the 2020 election but would harm the country.
“If she does that they all say that’s a positive for me in the election. You could also say who needs it, it’s bad for the country,” he said.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham responded to the reports by saying that “the Democrats continue to weaponize politics when they should be working on behalf of their constituents, which is nothing new.”
“President Trump is working hard on behalf of our country here in NYC while they continue to scream the word impeachment. Nothing new here,” she said in a statement.
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 175 Democrats supported some type of impeachment action — more than three-quarters of the 235-member caucus. An op-ed article by seven freshman House Democrats in The Washington Post calling for impeachment hearings to address allegations about Trump and Ukraine had been expected to give Pelosi the “cover” she needed to back a more formal impeachment proceeding against the president, three sources familiar with the matter told NBC News on Monday night.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he felt Pelosi was handling the situation “appropriately.”
The impeachment drive follows days of revelations surrounding Trump’s apparent push to have the Ukrainian government investigate the former vice president’s son Hunter Biden, who had business dealings in the country.
On Monday, The Washington Post and other media outlets reported that Trump instructed his acting chief of staff to place a hold on about $400 million in military aid for Ukraine in the days before a late July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Over the weekend, Trump admitted he discussed Biden, a possible 2020 challenger, with Zelensky. On Tuesday, he said he would release the transcript of the call and confirmed reports that his administration temporarily froze almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine. But he gave a new reason for doing so: He said he wanted European countries to contribute money, too, and did not want the United States to do so alone.
Trump on Tuesday also denied putting any pressure on the Ukrainian leader to probe a political rival.
“I put no pressure on them whatsoever,” he said. “I could have. I think it would probably, possibly have been OK if I did. But I didn’t. I didn’t put any pressure on them whatsoever.”