The morning after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump over a phone call in which he pressured a foreign leader to investigate a political rival, the White House released a reconstructed memo of the call.
During the phone call, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into former Vice President Joe Biden’s involvement in the Ukrainian government’s 2016 termination of its top prosecutor, who was then investigating a company in which Biden’s son, Hunter, had a stake. The July 25 call came one week after the United States froze hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Ukraine.
“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great,” Trump said, according to the White House document, which is not a verbatim transcript. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it …”
Biden’s efforts to get the top Ukrainian prosecutor removed was related to the U.S. belief that he wasn’t weeding out corruption in the country, according to the Washington Post News Service. No evidence has been found that Biden was trying to help his son.
Trump tweeted Wednesday morning asking if Democrats will “apologize after seeing what was said on the call with the Ukrainian President.” On the contrary, a growing number of Democrats in the Senate and the House have been joining the call to impeach Trump — from over 145 elected officials Tuesday to 216 Democrats and one Independent on Wednesday afternoon.
The House of Representatives needs 218 votes to impeach Trump without going through the inquiry process. No Republicans have come out in support of the impeachment inquiry.
The attention to Trump’s phone call came after an intelligence official filed a whistleblower complaint last month, which the acting director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, initially refused to share with Congress.
After the launch of the impeachment inquiry, though, Maguire relented and released a redacted version of the complaint Wednesday afternoon.
Pelosi announced Tuesday evening that the House would open a formal impeachment inquiry of the president, following months of investigation. News of Trump’s phone call was the straw that broke the camel’s back, Pelosi said.
“The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable facts of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said Tuesday. “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”
Republicans have responded in outrage, claiming there was no quid pro quo in the conversation.
“This is the witch hunt by the Democrats who don’t want to accept that Donald Trump was elected as president,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-27. “The White House released the transcript, and it’s another nothing burger. Presidents talk to leaders in other countries all the time and speak about issues — it’s not inappropriate.”
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-21, said in a statement Tuesday she also does not support the impeachment of the president. She would not comment on the content of the phone call memo Wednesday.
Other elected officials, however, believe the contrary.
“The president has admitted to soliciting the Ukrainian president to investigate a political rival,” U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, said in a statement Tuesday. “In doing so, the president used the power of the presidency to pressure a foreign government to help him win an election. This, by itself, is an impeachable offense.”
Alarms have also sounded over nearly $400 million in military aid that the administration withheld from Ukraine until last week. Privately, congressional Democrats are questioning whether the aid, which remained frozen during Trump’s call with Zelensky and for several weeks afterward, was related to the discussion of investigating Biden.
The hold on military aid to “fend off Russian aggression” is “even more troubling” than Trump’s phone call, Delgado said.
“It has become clear that our president has placed his personal interests above the national security of our nation,” Delgado said.
Delgado was not available for further comment Wednesday.
The Washington Post and New York Times news services contributed to this report.
Massarah Mikati covers the New York State Legislature and immigration for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter @massarahmikati.