It’s the call that broke the camel’s back.
After months of will-they-or-won’t-they dithering, House Democrats announced that they’ve had enough.
Accusations of an emboldened President Trump using military aid to extort the Ukrainian president for dirt on political rival Joe Biden finally pushed the Dems over the impeachment line.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had been the main hold out, called the president’s actions a “betrayal of his oath of office” and announced the launch of a formal inquiry on Tuesday.
"The President must be held accountable,” Pelosi said. “No one is above the law.”
She directed six House committees to proceed with their investigations under “that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.”
Her announcement set off a flurry of tweets from Trump, who shot back with a familiar comeback — “A total Witch Hunt!”
“PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” he posted.
Trump would be only the third president to be impeached.
Some swing-state Dems are still not on board, but a growing number of Democrats pushed Pelosi to begin impeachment proceedings after the new accusations of abuse of power.
More than a third of the 435 representatives in the House support an impeachment inquiry as of Tuesday afternoon.
It was a complaint filed by whistleblower in the U.S. intelligence community in August that turned the tide.
According to sources familiar with the complaint, Trump repeatedly asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 call to probe Biden and the former vice president’s son Hunter over his position at the country’s largest private gas company.
The president has defended his actions again and again, but admitted on Tuesday that he blocked about $400 million in security aid to Ukraine before the call.
“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.”
Trump has denied using the aid to pressure Zelensky to investigate Biden. He claimed before his speech to the United Nations General Assembly that he blocked the aid to force Europe to chip in, not to bully the ally.
“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,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “So bad for our Country!”
The intelligence community’s inspector general deemed the whistleblower’s complaint “credible” and “urgent” – which requires it be revealed to Congress under law. But the newly appointed acting director of national intelligence didn’t forward the complaint to lawmakers after consulting with the Department of Justice and the White House.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is set to be grilled at a Congressional hearing Thursday about his refusal to hand over the whistleblower complaint.
“He must turn over the whistleblower's full complaint to the committee,” Pelosi said Tuesday. “He will have to choose whether to break the law or honor his responsibility to the Constitution."
Trump and his allies argue that Biden should be investigated for supposedly pressuring Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was widely accused of corruption in 2015 while he was vice president. The prosecutor, who was later dismissed by Zelensky’s predecessor, had launched an investigation of a gas company on which Biden’s son sat on the board.
Trump even suggested said Biden would face “the electric chair if he were a Republican.”
The whistleblower could testify before Congress as soon as this week, according to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Cal.), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee. The Senate intelligence committee has also reportedly opened a bipartisan probe into the whistleblower’s complaint.
The whistleblower, identified only as an American intelligence operative, made a complaint centered around the July call but included concerns about a series of Trump actions, according to published reports.
“The Trump administration’s actions undermine…our national security and our intelligence and our protections of whistleblowers,” Pelosi said.
Trump tweeted that he would release a full transcript of his call with Zelensky.
“You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call. No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo!” Trump tweeted. “This is nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!”
Biden himself said Tuesday he supports impeachment if Trump does not cooperate.
“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 told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware. “That would be a tragedy, but a tragedy of his own making."
Republicans immediately characterized the push to bounce the president from the Oval Office as more of the same.
“Democrats have been trying to impeach the President since the beginning of this Congress. Michael Cohen’s testimony was a bust. John Dean’s testimony was a waste of time." Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said. "The Mueller report did not live up to the hype. Speaker Pelosi’s decision to pursue impeachment now — on the basis of unsubstantiated, indirect, and anonymous allegations — only shows that the Speaker has finally succumbed to unrelenting pressure from the socialist wing of the Democrat Party. This was never about Russian collusion or Ukrainian prosecutions. It is all about undoing the 2016 election and the will of the American people.”
The Republican-controlled Senate unanimously agreed to a resolution from Schumer on Tuesday calling on the full whistleblower complaint to be released to both intelligence committees.