WASHINGTON — It’s official: President Donald Trump is the subject of a U.S. House impeachment inquiry.
This comes as the remaining three Democrats in Michigan’s U.S. House delegation came out in support of hearings, as the Advance reported early Tuesday.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Tuesday that the body is moving forward with an “official impeachment inquiry” into the president in the wake of reports that he pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate his political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.
“The president must be held accountable; no one is above the law,” Pelosi said after a meeting Tuesday afternoon with the House Democratic caucus.
“The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution,” she added. She said she had directed six committee leaders already investigating the president to continue under the framework of a formal impeachment inquiry.
The announcement came after escalating pressure within the Democratic caucus to launch an official impeachment probe, a topic that has divided the caucus so far this year.
Some Democrats have been pushing for impeachment for months, but many moderates and leaders of the party were reluctant to take what could be a politically perilous route for some. U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) called for Trump’s impeachment after taking office in January and has helped lead the charge.
“From the first day of this session, I’ve called to uphold our nation’s law of the land, our United States Constitution,” Tlaib said in a statement on Tuesday. “This means impeaching the President for his criminal and impeachable offenses. I made this decision early on because the continued lawlessness and king-like activity out of the White House endangers our democracy. Unfortunately, this President continues to put the lives of Americans in jeopardy by disregarding the well-being of people across the country, putting his personal interests before the American people he took an oath to serve.
“In light of today’s news, I say, “Tick-Tock, Mr. President.” The nation has joined our call to hold him accountable with his recent extortion of Ukraine.”
But in light of recent reports about Trump pressuring the Ukrainian president, moderate Democrats and leaders said there was no alternative to impeachment proceedings.
All seven of Democrats in Michigan’s U.S. House delegation are on board with hearings. Freshmen U.S. Reps. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), who both flipped suburban GOP districts, announced their support in the last 24 hours. So did U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn).
“I remain deeply concerned about the division in this country that I fear could harm the roots of our democracy. We are a divided country, but we can never be divided on the rule of law,” Dingell said in a statement.
“We learned the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community had determined this was a credible, urgent whistleblower report that was a real threat to our national security. Congress has a responsibility to understand the perceived threat and to address the issues. … It is our responsibility as Members of Congress to protect the United States of America. We take an oath to protect our Constitution and to protect our national security.”
U.S. Reps. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.), Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) and Dan Kildee (D-Flint) already backed proceedings.
“President Trump’s actions have taken us to this moment where the opening of an impeachment inquiry is necessary to defend the rule of law,” Kildee said in a statement. “… This is a solemn day in our nation’s history. Opening an impeachment inquiry against the President of the United States should always be a tool of last resort, but sadly this is a step we must take to uphold and defend our Constitution.”
Lawrence called it “unacceptable that the President of the United States would seek the assistance of a foreign government to benefit his re-election. After repeatedly denying that he would gladly have Russia and other actors aid his election in 2016, the President admitted on national television that he asked a foreign leader for help in efforts to discredit another candidate.”
She added that she fully supports Pelosi’s decision to launch a formal inquiry.
According to the New York Times, 180 members of the House backed an impeachment inquiry by Tuesday evening, representing more than two-thirds of the Democratic caucus and one independent lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (I-Cascade Twp.). Amash came out in June for an impeachment inquiry and left the GOP in July amid the furor from his colleagues.
“Members of Congress swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution,” Amash said in a statement Tuesday. “We cannot allow any person to abuse the office of the presidency.”
Impeachment backers would need 218 votes for the House to approve articles of impeachment. So far, no other Republicans are on board.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) has broken with Trump on some key issues, like rebuking him for circumventing Congress to get funds for his border wall. The Advance asked spokesman Josh Paciorek if Upton backed a formal impeachment inquiry in light of Trump’s alleged actions in Ukraine.
“It’s not appropriate to speculate on that at this time when not all the information is out,” Paciorek said. “As Fred has said, the allegations are troubling, and he is calling for transparency and for all the facts to come out before making any conclusions.”
U.S. House lawmakers said they expect the chamber to move forward rapidly on the matter, although the exact timeline remains unclear. The House is slated to go on recess for the next two weeks.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is expected to testify before the House Intelligence Committee Thursday. Lawmakers have demanded he turn over a whistleblower’s complaint related to Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president. House Democrats announced a vote Wednesday on a resolution expressing disapproval over the administration blocking the release of the complaint.
Democrats stressed that the Ukraine controversy offers a clear trigger for the impeachment inquiry that isn’t as complicated as some of their other allegations, like accusations that Trump has violated the emoluments clause or claims that he obstructed justice.
“People don’t know what emoluments are, but they get this. Or, how do you prove collusion, but you get this. Those things will continue and they’re still egregious, but this is something that’s easier to put out in a tweet, or easier to explain,” said U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nevada).
Her staff was keeping track of the calls coming in Tuesday. She estimated her office got about 50 calls about impeachment only two of them were against it.
“The phone’s been ringing,” she said.
Titus said the official inquiry brings a new urgency to the investigations and that there were discussions about bringing lawmakers back early from the scheduled recess to dig in.
Impeachment prospects in the U.S. Senate are far from certain. It appears highly unlikely that the GOP-controlled chamber would vote to convict Trump after an impeachment trial, if the proceedings went that far.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Democrats of an “obsession with re-litigating 2016” on Tuesday.
He said Pelosi’s announcement “confirms that House Democrats’ priority is not making life better for the American people but their nearly three-year-old fixation on impeachment.”
Meanwhile, the Senate voted unanimously Tuesday for the whistleblower complaint to be turned over to congressional intelligence committees.
As impeachment talk dominated Capitol Hill, Trump tweeted Tuesday, “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” and “total Witch Hunt Scam by the Democrats.”
Trump also said he authorized the release of the transcript of his call.
House Republicans similarly decried Democrats’ decision to plow ahead with impeachment proceedings.
U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, a freshman Republican from Virginia who serves on the Judiciary Committee, called the announcement a “head scratcher.” He said Democrats have wanted to impeach Trump since his 2016 election. “As a new congressman, it just feels like we can’t get anything done for our districts as they continue down this rabbit hole and it’s very frustrating.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) said Democrats will suffer political consequences. “Good luck,” Gosar said Tuesday evening. “It’s caustic.”