WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused House Democrats of a "rush to judgment" following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's announcement Tuesday that a formal impeachment inquiry has been launched against President Donald Trump.
McConnell, R-Ky., echoed the sentiments of congressional Republicans who dismissed the inquiry as a partisan and baseless effort to undo Trump's victory three years ago simply because Democrats are unhappy with his policies.
"Washington Democrats have been searching for ways to reverse their 2016 election defeat since before President Trump was even inaugurated," McConnell said. "The result has been a two-and-a-half-year impeachment parade in search of a rationale."
"This election is over. I realize 2016 didn't turn out the way Speaker Pelosi wanted it to happen but she cannot change the laws of Congress," House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at the Capitol. "It's time to put the public before politics."
Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry following media reports in recent days that the president tried to pressure Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden whose son, Hunter, had business dealings in the East European country.
The allegation, reportedly leveled in a whistleblower complaint made the inspector general of the intelligence community, ultimately convinced Pelosi to move ahead with the inquiry after dozens of House Democrats had been pushing for such a move in recent weeks.
"The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law," said Pelosi, who accused him of "betraying his oath of office" and endangering national security as a result of his pressure on Ukraine.
The scandal erupted over a complaint filed Aug. 12 from an unnamed official in the intelligence community who called attention to Trump's contacts with a foreign government. On July 25, Trump had a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump says he urged Zelensky to fight corruption. Trump has acknowledged bringing up Biden in that conversation.
Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani have been pushing Ukraine to investigate Burisma Group, a Ukrainian energy company where the vice president's son Hunter served on the board of directors.
During the time period when Trump and Zelensky spoke, the Trump administration was holding up millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine that was approved by Congress.
The vast majority of Congressional Republicans who have spoken up about the latest allegation remain firmly in the president's camp.
“For months, House Democrats have careened from justification to justification, looking for any excuse to begin impeachment proceedings," said Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wy., who chairs the GOP House Conference. "Since the President was sworn in, the Democrats have repeatedly attempted to overturn the results of the election and discard the votes of 63 million Americans who voted for President Trump."
One exception is Utah Sen. Mitt Romney who wrote on Twitter Sunday that the accusation, if true, would be "troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out."
If the President asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) September 22, 2019
But Rep. Steve Chabot, a Ohio Republican who voted for Bill Clinton's impeachment in 1999 and served as one of the prosecutors in his Senate trial, is trying to raise money over the impeachment inquiry against Trump.
"Never in my years of public service have I seen an American president be subjected to these kinds of hyperbolic claims, misleading accusations and partisan attacks," he wrote in a fundraising appeal.
"I have an obligation to the people of the 1st District of Ohio to stop this misuse of congressional power to advance a partisan agenda," Chabot continued. "I will vigorously oppose this impeachment sideshow in Washington because I believe that in the people’s House, we should be focused on doing the people’s business."
Contributing: John Fritze