Flurry of House Dems back impeachment inquiry, amid bombshell reports Trump withheld Ukraine aid
A slew of key swing-district Democrats late Monday threw their support en masse behind opening a formal impeachment inquiry, as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal reported in the evening that Trump personally ordered acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to freeze nearly $400M in military aid to Ukraine just days before he pressed the new Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
The rapid-fire declarations by the influential Democrats, after seemingly months of teetering on the brink, came just a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi strongly suggested she was now warming to the idea of impeaching the president. Speaking to Fox News, a House Democratic leadership aide confirmed that the Democratic caucus will meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Ukraine matter and how to proceed.
“The horse is out of the barn,” said former Hillary Clinton pollster and strategist Geoff Garin. “Saddle up.”
Speaking to reporters at the United Nations on Monday, Trump denied linking the aid money to Ukraine’s investigative actions. “No, I didn’t — I didn’t do it,” Trump said. He also called the Bidens’ actions in Ukraine a “disgrace,” and remarked: “It’s very important to talk about corruption. … Why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?”
Joe Biden has acknowledged that when he was vice president, he successfully pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, while Shokin was investigating the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings — where Hunter Biden was on the board.
Trump has long said he wants European countries to pay more for their own defense, and an administration official told the Journal that Trump’s actions on the call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July “reflected the president’s concerns about how the U.S. is spending aid money and whether U.S. allies are adequately contributing.”
Another official told the paper that the Trump administration internally maintained at the time that Ukraine’s corruption problems were a consideration in the aid decision. Trump’s decision to freeze Ukraine funding reportedly came more than a week before his call with Zelensky.
Fox News has not independently confirmed the reports, which rocked Capitol Hill even as Democrats insisted they were keeping the developments in perspective. While Democrats are set to meet Tuesday to discuss Ukraine and possible impeachment proceedings, the top House aide told Fox News that trade — not Ukraine– would headline Democrats’ agenda at a separate planned caucus meeting Wednesday.
“The dominant focus of the caucus on Wednesday is trade,” the aide told Fox News. “A second caucus has been added to ensure adequate time for member discussion on the whistleblower matter and a number of other pressing matters on Tuesday afternoon.”
Something of an impeachment inquiry dam broke late Monday, when seven centrist Democratic freshmen lawmakers who served in the military and national security announced in an op-ed that if Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate the Bidens for political benefit, it’s impeachable. The lawmakers — Reps. Gil Cisneros of California, Jason Crow of Colorado, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia — come largely from swing districts where Trump is popular but voters split.
The Democrats wrote in The Washington Post they “do not arrive at this conclusion lightly.”
“These allegations are stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent,” the lawmakers said. “These new allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect. We must preserve the checks and balances envisioned by the Founders and restore the trust of the American people in our government. And that is what we intend to do.”
Later in the night, Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz and Michigan Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell also endorsed an impeachment inquiry. Such an inquiry would not be an impeachment vote, but rather an investigative process that could quickly lead to actual impeachment.
“On behalf of the people who elected us, we must formalize and accelerate the impeachment process so that Congress, by exercising its responsibility under Article 1 of the Constitution, can provide some measure of accountability,” Schatz said in a statement.
The flurry of moves brings to 154 the number of House Democrats who have signaled strong support for possible impeachment proceedings. (235 Democrats and 198 Republicans are in the House, with one independent — and a majority would be required to successfully impeach the president. An unlikely two-thirds vote in the GOP-controlled Senate would be needed to convict and remove the president.)
Democrats have presented conflicting views, in court and in public, as to whether impeachment proceedings are already in progress. The renewed push on Monday could galvanize remaining Democrats to openly call their efforts an impeachment probe.