More Dems back impeachment action amid reports Trump ordered Ukraine aid frozen – NBC News
One hundred and fifty one House Democrats — nearly two-thirds of the 235-member caucus — now back some type of impeachment action in light of President Donald Trump’s burgeoning Ukraine scandal.
The fast-expanding list includes 13 lawmakers who have come out in favor of action since reports last week that the president pushed Ukraine to investigate the Biden family.
Some on this list have called for an impeachment inquiry or hearings, some believe the House Judiciary Committee is already undertaking an inquiry and are supportive of that investigation, while others have gone further and called for drafting articles of impeachment. Lawmakers are using different terms when they talk about the issue.
In addition to the 151 House Democrats backing some type of impeachment action, Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan independent, also favors an impeachment investigation, bringing the total number to 152.
In a Monday night Washington Post op-ed article, seven freshman House Democrats called for impeachment hearings in response to the Ukraine scandal, which three sources told NBC News may give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the “cover” she needs to back a formal impeachment proceeding against the president, which she has not done to date.
“This is major. It seems to me like it’s an inflection point,” one source said.
In the op-ed article, Reps. Gil Cisneros of California; Jason Crow of Colorado; Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania; Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey; Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger, both of Virginia; and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan said their experiences in the military, defense and U.S. intelligence agencies helped shape their decision.
“These allegations are stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent,” they wrote.
A senior aide to a House Democrat told NBC News on Tuesday that 20 to 30 or more Democrats may announce support for impeachment action through the day.
“I think we may have critical mass by the end of the week, assuming the administration continues to refuse on the whistleblower docs,” the source said, citing the whistleblower complaint that sparked the wave of scrutiny regarding the president and Ukraine.
Speaking with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday, Spanberger and Slotkin expanded upon their op-ed, saying the Ukraine allegations are a threat to U.S. democracy.
“And, by the way, I mean, people don’t remember it, but there’s a hot war going on in eastern Ukraine,” Slotkin said. “So you start holding back security assistance, that’s a real lever to use with people. But the very basic idea of getting foreign help to influence American political process, that is beyond the pale.”
The recent impeachment drive follows days of revelations surrounding Trump’s apparent push to have the Ukrainian government investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who had business dealings in the country.
On Monday, The Washington Post and other media outlets reported that Trump instructed his chief of staff to place a hold on $400 million in military aid for Ukraine in the days before a late July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Responding to those allegations, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said on Monday night that the “allegations are completely false, but because the media wants this story to be true so badly, they’ll once again manufacture a frenzy and drive ignorant, fake stories to attack this president.”
Trump has already admitted to talking about Biden with Zelensky and, in discussing that conversation with reporters on Monday, tied the military aide to the country’s probing of corruption.
“We want to make sure that country is honest. It’s very important to talk about corruption,” Trump said Monday. “If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?”
Later in the day, Trump denied any quid pro quo where he pledged to give Ukraine the money in exchange for further probing of the Bidens.
“I put no pressure on them whatsoever,” he said. “I could have. I think it would probably, possibly have been OK if I did. But I didn’t. I didn’t put any pressure on them whatsoever.”
The Trump-Zelensky discussion came under sharp scrutiny following the whistleblower complaint by a member of the U.S. intelligence community that media reports said was tied to the call between the two leaders. The administration is refusing to turn that complaint over to Congress.
In a letter to colleagues on Sunday, Pelosi threatened a “new stage of investigation” if the Trump administration and acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire fail to provide the whistleblower complaint when Maguire testifies in front of the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
Maguire and the national intelligence inspector general, Michael Atkinson, are also set to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors Thursday afternoon. Pelosi has called an all-caucus meeting for 4 p.m. Tuesday that is expected to cover impeachment.
Trump has teased the possibility he may release a transcript of his phone call with Zelensky, a move that several Republicans have publicly pushed him to do.
On Saturday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said he didn’t think Trump pressured Zelensky during the phone call. Trump and Zelensky are set to meet face to face this week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York.
It centers on the former vice president’s 2016 call, widely backed by the international community, for Ukraine to crack down on corruption. That included a call to remove a Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was seen as ineffective and was later removed by the country’s Parliament. One of the cases that Shokin was investigating involved Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company, whose board at the time included Biden’s son.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg News, citing documents and an interview with a former Ukrainian official, reported the Burisma investigation had been dormant for more than a year by the time Biden called for the crackdown on corruption. The then-Ukrainian prosecutor general told the news agency he found no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and his son. And PolitiFact reported it found no evidence to “support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son’s interests in mind.”