The United States House of Representatives will launch a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump over reports he sought foreign help to smear a political rival, setting up a dramatic clash between Congress and the White House that could spill into the 2020 presidential campaign.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the inquiry on Tuesday after a closed-door meeting with Democratic politicians, saying Trump’s actions appeared to have undermined national security and violated the US Constitution.
“The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law,” said Pelosi, who had for months been reluctant to embrace an impeachment effort.
Trump fired back quickly on Twitter, calling the inquiry “Witch Hunt garbage”.
After more than two and one-half years of sharp Democratic criticism of Trump, the formal impeachment quest sets up the party’s most urgent and consequential confrontation with a president who thrives on combat – and injects deep uncertainty in the 2020 White House race. Trump has all but dared Democrats to take this step, confident that the spectre of impeachment led by the opposition party would bolster his political support.
Pelosi’s change of heart followed reports that Trump had pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 phone call to investigate Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden and his son.
Trump promised on Tuesday to release a transcript of his phone call. He also confirmed he had withheld nearly $400m in US aid to Ukraine but denied he did so as leverage to get Zelensky to initiate an investigation that would damage Biden.
Pelosi said the six congressional committees currently investigating Trump would continue with their probes as part of the inquiry.
Those panels would work collaboratively, and then decide whether the House Judiciary Committee should draft articles of impeachment, House aides said.