All the latest updates as US House launches official impeachment inquiry of US President Donald Trump.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday that the US House of Representatives will launch a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, acquiescing to mounting pressure from fellow Democrats and plunging a deeply divided nation into an election year clash between Congress and the president.
The announcement came amid reports that Trump may have abused his presidential powers and sought help from a foreign government to undermine former Vice President Joe Biden, the current Democratic frontrunner, and help his own reelection.
In a summer phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Trump asked for help investigating Biden, according to a White House-released summary of the call. In the days before the call, Trump ordered advisers to freeze $400m in military aid for Ukraine – prompting speculation that he was holding out the money as leverage for information on Biden. Trump has denied that charge, but acknowledged he blocked the funds, later released.
The Trump-Ukraine phone call is part of the whistle-blower’s complaint, though the administration has blocked Congress from getting other details of the report, citing presidential privilege. Trump authorised the release of a summary of the call.
“You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call,” Trump said. He blasted the inquiry on Tuesday as “Witch Hunt garbage”.
As a formal impeachment inquiry in the House gets under way, here are all the latest updates:
Wednesday, September 25
Trump says he doesn’t like precedent of releasing details of calls with foreign leaders
US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he decided to release a summary of a controversial phone call with Ukraine’s leader because “horrible things” were being reported about it, but that he did not like the precedent of releasing details of such calls.
“I don’t like the precedent,” Trump said at a news conference on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting. “I don’t like it where you’re dealing with heads of state and to think that their call is going to be released.”
Trump calls inquiry ‘a hoax’
Trump again used his often repeated line when it comes talking about investigations of him and his administration: “a hoax”.
“The Democrats did this hoax during the United Nations week. It was perfect,” Trump said during a news conference in New York on Wednesday. “Because this way it takes away from the tremendous achievements that we’re taking care of doing that we’re involved in. In New York City at the United Nations.”
Trump also said he “didn’t threaten anybody”, denying that he attempted to pressure Ukraine’s leader.
Trump says he backs transparency, calls for transparency from Dems
Trump on Twitter and in a press conference said he has informed Republicans that he full supports transperence “on so-called whistleblower information” but he said he insists “on transparency from Joe Biden and his son Hunter, on the millions of dollars that have been quickly and easily…taken out of Ukraine and China”.
“Additionally, I demand transparency from Democrats that went to Ukraine,” he said.
Ukraine president thought only US side of Trump call would be published
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday he thought that only US President Donald Trump’s side of their July phone call would be published.
According to a summary of the momentous telephone call released by the Trump administration, Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate a political rival, former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, in coordination with the US attorney general and Trump’s personal lawyer.
“I personally think that sometimes such calls between presidents of independent countries should not be published,” Zelensky told Ukrainian media in a briefing in New York that was broadcast in Ukraine. “I just thought that they would publish their part.”
Zelensky said he did not know the details of an investigation into Biden’s son, repeating that he wants his new general prosecutor to investigate all cases.
Whistle-blower complaint to be delivered to Congress Wednesday: reports
Several US media outlets reported that the House and Senate intelligence committees will gain access to the the whistle-blower complaint at 4pm local time (20:00 GMT) on Wednesday.
Biden says Trump hurt US national security
Joe Biden said President Donald Trump not only has compromised national security but mounted “a direct attack on the independence” of the Justice Department.
The document shows Trump asking Zelensky to “do us a favour” by investigating Biden and his son, Hunter. Trump urged Zelensky to talk to Attorney General William Barr about the matter.
Biden said Trump “put personal politics” above US national security interests by soliciting a foreign leader’s help in damaging one of the US president’s domestic political rivals. Biden is a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
Trump says he put ‘no pressure’ on Zelenskiy
President Donald Trump said he placed “no pressure” on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden.
Trump commented on Wednesday during a meeting in New York with Zelenskiy on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly.
Asked about their July telephone call, Zelensky said it was a “good phone call” and “normal” and that he and Trump discussed “many things.”
Zelenskiy added, “Nobody pushed me.”
Top US spy official threatened to quit if pressured on testimony: report
The top US spy official threatened to resign over concerns the White House might press him to withhold information from Congress in scheduled testimony on Thursday about a whistle-blower complaint about President Donald Trump, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
Citing unnamed current and former US officials, the Post said acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire told the White House he was not willing to stonewall Congress.
It said the move was partly aimed at forcing the White House to make an explicit legal decision on whether it was going to assert executive privilege over the whistleblower complaint, which Maguire has so far withheld from Congress.
Ukraine president says was not pushed by Trump to act on Biden
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday he was not pushed by US President Donald Trump to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and does not want to involved in the US elections.
“I don’t want to be involved to democratic open elections of US state,” he said. “We had I think good phone call, it was normal, we spoke about many things … I think, and you read it, that nobody pushed me.”
Republicans slam Democrats, defend Trump
The vast majority of Republicans have dismissed Trump’s phone call with his Ukrainian president as a “nothing call”.
Republicans leaned heavily on the fact that the rough transcript did not include direct evidence of a quid pro quo.
“Dems launched an impeachment inquiry based on a rumor instead of waiting for the facts,” tweeted Republican Representative Steve Scalise.
“Nothing remotely impeachable in transcript,” tweeted Republican Pete King. “Ukrainian President brought up Giuliani before @POTUS Trump mentioned Biden. No quid pro quo. Pursuing impeachment is indefensible.”
Schumer calls for Senate intelligence panel to probe Trump’s handling of Ukraine
The US Senate intelligence panel should probe President Donald Trump’s handling of Ukraine, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters on Wednesday following the release of a memo outlining Trump’s July call with the Ukrainian president.
Schumer, speaking to reporters, said the memo – which showed Trump asking Kiev to investigate his potential 2020 Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden – raised a number of questions that Republicans should also want answered.
The Senate committee, led by Republican Senator Richard Burr, conducted a largely bipartisan investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.
US House chairmen threaten subpoenas after ‘damning, shocking’ call
The chairmen of four of the US House of Representatives committees involved in the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump called a summary of his call with Ukraine’s president “an unambiguous, damning, and shocking abuse” of office on Wednesday.
The four committee leaders, all Democrats, repeated that Congress needs full, unredacted access to the whistleblower complaint that fueled calls for the impeachment inquiry and threatened to subpoena the State Department and White House if they do not turn over related records for a Thursday deadline.
Pelosi: Memo confirms need for impeachment inquiry
Democratic US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the summary of a July phone conversation between US President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s president released by the Justice Department on Wednesday confirmed the need for an impeachment inquiry of Trump.
“The release of the notes of the call by the White House confirms that the President engaged in behavior that undermines the integrity of our elections, the dignity of the office he holds and our national security,” Pelsoi said in a statement.
House intel panel chair: Trump’s Ukraine call far more damning than expected
The chairman of the US House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, on Wednesday said President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president was far more damning than expected.
Schiff, a Democrat, said the memo of the call that the White House released earlier on Wednesday in which Trump asked Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, currently seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, sounded like threats made by the mafia.
Nadler calls on Barr to recuse himself ‘until we get to the bottom of this’
Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted on Wednesday that Barr “must recuse himself until we get to the bottom of this matter”.
Barr connection marks possible new issue for Trump
Trump told Zelensky that Attorney General William Barr, the top US law enforcement official, would reach out to him about re-opening the investigation into the Ukrainian gas company, according to the rough transcript of a call between the US and Ukrainian leaders.
The connection to Barr marked a new and potentially more serious issue for Trump because it shows he took steps to involve the US government with a foreign country to investigate a political rival.
Trump did not ask Barr to contact Ukraine, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said, and Barr has not communicated with Ukraine about a possible investigation or any other subject. Barr, a Trump appointee, first found out about the conversation several weeks after it took place, Kupec said.
Memo shows Trump repeatedly prodded Ukraine president
President Donald Trump repeatedly prodded Ukraine’s new leader to work with Rudy Giuliani and the US attorney general to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden. That’s according to a five-page memo summarising the July 25 call.
The White House released the memo on Wednesday.
The conversation between Trump and Ukraine’s president is just one piece of a whistle-blower’s complaint made in mid-August.
The complaint is central to the impeachment inquiry announced Tuesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Trump told the Ukrainian president “If you can look into it … it sounds horrible to me”.
Trump was talking about unsubstantiated allegations that Biden sought to interfere with a Ukrainian prosecutor’s investigation of his son, Hunter.
Trump also confirmed that he ordered his staff to freeze nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine a few days before the call.
The president said he did nothing wrong.
House to vote on resolution calling for release of whistle-blower complaint
The Democrat-led House of Representatives plans to vote on Wednesday on a non-binding resolution condemning the Trump administration for withholding the whistle-blower complaint related to Trump’s phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart. The resolution also calls on the administration to release the complaint.
Asked about Trump, Ukrainian leader says only his son can pressure him
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, asked whether US President Donald Trump had put improper pressure on him during a July phone call, said nobody can put pressure on him except his six-year-old son.
“Nobody can put pressure on me because I am the president of an independent state,” Zelensky told Russian reporters in New York where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly.
“The only one person by the way who can put pressure on me … is my son, who is six years old,” said Zelensky whose comments were broadcast by the Rossiya 24 channel on Wednesday morning ahead of an planned meeting between Zelensky and Trump.
Trump complains again of harassment
Donald Trump described himself Wednesday as the worst-treated president ever after Democrats announced a formal impeachment inquiry against him.
“The Democrats are frozen with hatred and fear. They get nothing done. This should never be allowed to happen to another President. Witch Hunt!,” Trump tweeted.
Prior to the Democrats announcement, Trump asserted than an impeach inquiry would be a “positive” for him.
Tuesday, September 24
White House to release whistle-blower complaint
The White House is preparing to release a whistle-blower complaint about US President Donald Trump’s call with Ukraine’s leader by the end of the week, Politico magazine reported on Tuesday, citing a senior administration official.
Trump said on Tuesday he would release a transcript of the call between the two leaders, but the White House had previously resisted releasing the complaint.
Trump: impeachment inquiry ‘garbage’
President Donald Trump reacted swiftly to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement that the Democratic-controlled House is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.
Trump noted that Pelosi’s announcement comes as he meets Tuesday with world leaders at the United Nations. He tweeted that “the Democrats purposely had to ruin and demean it with more breaking news Witch Hunt garbage. So bad for our Country!”
He added: “They never even saw the transcript of the call. A total Witch Hunt!”
Before the announcement, Trump asserted that an impeachment inquiry would be “positive for me”.
Pelosi orders impeachment inquiry
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced the US House is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
Pelosi made the announcement on Tuesday from the speaker’s office at the Capitol saying “no one is above the law”.
The move puts the Democratic speaker’s stamp on the investigations that have been under way in the House.
Pelosi said the president “must be held accountable.”
Senate approves resolution of release of complaint
The Republican-led Senate has approved a nonbinding but symbolically important resolution calling on the Trump administration to immediately provide the House and Senate intelligence committees a copy of a whistle-blower complaint involving President Donald Trump.
The measure put forward by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer passed by a voice vote after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed the idea and noted that the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee was working behind the scenes to obtain the complaint.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that the House would vote on a similar resolution on Wednesday.
Biden: Congress must use ‘full constitutional authority’
Former Vice President Joe Biden said Congress must use its “full constitutional authority” to determine whether President Donald Trump asked the Ukrainian president for dirt on Biden as he runs for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Biden said if Trump doesn’t comply on that and other inquiries, he “will leave Congress … with no choice but to initiate impeachment”.
Biden said that would be a tragedy of Trump’s “own making”.
He added that the president apparently believes he is “above the law”.
Whistle-blower wants to speak
The chairman of the House intelligence committee said a whistle-blower who has been blocked by the Trump administration would like to speak to Congress.
The whistle-blower, whose identity is unknown, lodged a formal complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, but the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, determined that it could not be forwarded to Congress.
The complaint at least partly involves President Donald Trump’s interactions with the leader of Ukraine.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies