House Democrats mull impeaching Trump: Here's what we know so far

USA Today Politics 1 month ago

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will make an announcement Tuesday evening after meeting leadership as a growing chorus of Democrats call for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.  

"Later today I will make an announcement after I meet with my chairmen, my leadership and my caucus," Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters on Tuesday. 

A string of Democrats have stepped forward in recent days voicing support to begin impeachment proceedings amid reports that Trump tried to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his 2020 political rival, former vice president Joe Biden. 

Trump faced more scrutiny on Tuesday after a Washington Post report stated he told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold congressional-approved military aid for Ukraine just days before his phone call with Zelensky. According to the report, the president sought to use the money as leverage to force Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden and his son.

Here's what we know about the brewing political storm. 

What are Democrats meeting about today?

Pelosi, who has resisted support for Trump's impeachment for several months, is meeting at 4 p.m. ET with six committee chairmen, who are leading several investigations into the president, to discuss consensus on how to proceed.

Democrats say the allegation that Trump sought to leverage military aid to Ukraine in an effort to dig up political dirt on Biden is an abuse of power and an impeachable offense. 

Several Democrats, including some freshmen lawmakers who flipped Republican-controlled districts in the 2018 midterm election, have stepped forward to support impeachment. 

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. the no.2 Democrat in the Senate, and Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, an icon of the civil rights movement, also threw their support behind impeachment on Tuesday. 

How'd we get here?        

The saga began last week when The Washington Post reported that a whistleblower complaint filed August 12 to the inspector general for national intelligence warranted "urgent concern" regarding Trump.

The secret complaint is reportedly related to Trump's phone call with Zelensky on July 25, in which the president has said he discussed corruption and Biden. Over the last week, reports emerged that Trump pressured Zelensky during the phone call to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden's business dealings with a Ukrainian firm. 

Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani have pushed uncorroborated claims for months that Biden as vice president sought the ouster in 2016 of Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general Viktor Shokin to stop an investigation into Burisma Group, a Ukrainian energy company where the vice president's son Hunter served on the board of directors.

The push by the vice president came alongside calls for Ukraine to get rid of Shokin from European diplomats and the U.S. State Department because international leaders said Shokin did too little to fight corruption in the Eastern European country.

The Ukrainian Parliament voted Shokin out. Ukrainian officials have found no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or his son. 

The drama escalated when reports surfaced Monday that Trump had instructed acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to withhold nearly $400 million in congressional-approved military aid to Ukraine days before the July phone call, fueling speculation that he did so to pressure Zelensky into investigating Biden. Trump maintains that he delayed the funding because other countries were not contributing funds to Ukraine.

Before Pelosi's meeting on Tuesday, Trump authorized the release of the transcript of his phone call with Zelensky, calling it a "very friendly and totally appropriate call." 

What happens next?

Pelosi is reportedly weighing several options to address the whistleblower complaint, including the creation of a select committee, which would allow her to choose the lawmakers overseeing the investigation. 

The California Democrat also is reportedly considering bringing to a vote a statement of disapproval of Trump's actions, according to the Associated Press. 

If Pelosi announces plans to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump, she will need the support of at least two-thirds of the 235-member House of Representatives. 

Pelosi's meeting comes a day before the Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is scheduled to testify before the Senate and House intelligence committees, where he is likely to be pressed by Democrats to produce the whistleblower complaint. 

Meanwhile, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on Tuesday the whistleblower could testify before the House intelligence committee as soon as this week. 

All eyes will be on Trump on Thursday, when he is set to meet Zelensky in person at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

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