UPDATE – US House Speaker announces formal impeachment inquiry

ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The House of Representatives will open an impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday.

“The president must be held accountable; no one is above the law,” Pelosi said in remarks to reporters on Capitol Hill.

The investigation will center on Trump's July telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a conversation that prompted a hitherto unknown whistleblower to file a complaint over possible wrongdoing.

Pelosi had been reluctant to take up impeachment, but reports that Trump sought to pressure Zelensky during that call into probing former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, using U.S. aid as leverage has led to mounting calls for the top House Democrat to act.

Trump has acknowledged the call and freezing aid, but he has denied that he held up the funding to pressure Zelensky, insisting there was no "quid pro quo."

He said earlier Tuesday that he authorized the release of "the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript" of his call with Zelensky, vowing it will exonerate him.

After Pelosi formally announced the inquiry, the president went on a Twitter tear issuing a salvo of messages criticizing Democrats, whom he said "never even saw the transcript of the call. A total Witch Hunt!"

"Such an important day at the United Nations, so much work and so much success, and the Democrats purposely had to ruin and demean it with more breaking news Witch Hunt garbage. So bad for our Country!" he exclaimed. "PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!"

If Trump used U.S. aid as leverage to get a foreign government to investigate a political rival ahead of the president's 2020 re-election bid, it would constitute a “betrayal of his oath of office," Pelosi said.

"The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections," she added.

The whistleblower, whose name has not been made public, has requested to testify before the House Intelligence Committee regarding the conversation, Chairman Adam Schiff said Tuesday.

The individual has requested guidance from Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on how to do so, Schiff tweeted.

"We‘re in touch with counsel and look forward to the whistleblower’s testimony as soon as this week," he said.

Constitutionally, it is the House that has the power to enter articles of impeachment. If at least one is approved by a majority in the chamber, the matter moves to the Senate, where it is tried.

Three presidents have been impeached in U.S. history — Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Both Johnson and Clinton were acquitted, and Nixon resigned from office in order to avoid the process.

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