'Betrayal of his oath'
This isn't your slow-motion Russia investigation. Just days since vague stories about a whistleblower complaint exploded into revelations about Donald Trump trying to sic a foreign leader on a Democratic re-election opponent, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the launch of a formal impeachment inquiry.
After months of holding back impeachment-eager progressive members of her rank and file, Pelosi didn't hold back.
“The president has admitted to asking the president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically,” she 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.”
What else has changed, Pelosi said Tuesday, is that of all the potentially impeachable offenses Trump is accused of, "this one is the most understandable by the public." Polls throughout the years of the Russia investigation — and before the new scandal — showed impeachment grew only more unpopular, giving pause to vulnerable moderate Democrats from swing districts.
But outrage at Trump's Ukraine ploy moved decisive numbers of Democrats off the fence, including Long Island Reps. Thomas Suozzi and Gregory Meeks. "Inaction would give this president (and future presidents) assurances that their misdeeds are immune from punishment," Suozzi wrote on his Facebook page. "A line has been crossed," Meeks said on CNN.
Trump angrily contended there was nothing wrong in his leaning on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a July 25 phone call to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Democrats say Trump's own words about the call establish that he abused his power even if he didn't explicitly mention the military aid package he froze the week before. Trump tweeted that he will release on Wednesday the transcript of the conversation, which he insisted will show "it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call."
But Democrats also are demanding the release of the intelligence community whistleblower's complaint, which reportedly contains broader details of troubling actions. Politico reported the White House will abandon its effort to keep the complaint secret. Adding to the drama, the still-anonymous whistleblower wants to testify before the House and Senate intelligence committees, and the House panel's chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, said he looked forward to hearing the testimony "as soon as this week." For more, see Newsday's stories by Tom Brune and Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Across the Capitol ...
No matter what the House ultimately does, impeachment would die in the Republican-led Senate without a mass defection from Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell harshly denounced Pelosi's move, saying, “Washington Democrats have been searching for ways to reverse their 2016 election defeat since before President Trump was even inaugurated."
Yet even if there's no current GOP support for the impeachment, are some Republicans just a little curious? Senate intelligence chairman Richard Burr joined his committee's top Democratic counterpart, Mark Warner, in seeking an interview with the whistleblower, Yahoo News reported.
McConnell surprised Senate watchers when he didn't try to block a resolution from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calling for the whistleblower complaint to be released to the House and Senate intelligence committees. McConnell also distanced himself from Trump's two-month freeze on Ukraine aid, saying he had pressed Trump administration officials to explain the holdup but "I was not given an explanation."
How's Trump taking it?
Trump had a few things to tweet after Pelosi's announcement, starting with how it ruined his day at the UN.
"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!"
The tweet storm gathered force with "They never even saw the transcript of the call. A total Witch Hunt!" and the classic "PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!"
Earlier in the day, he added a new twist to his version of events — he held up the Ukraine aid because he was waiting for European nations to contribute more. And only one of the following two statements could be true: "There was no pressure put on them whatsoever. But there was pressure put on with respect to Joe Biden."
Post: How Rudy was unleashed
The Washington Post reported Tuesday night that the Zelensky call followed a monthslong fight inside the administration that sidelined national security officials and empowered political loyalists — including Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani — with an agenda aimed at tarring Biden and punishing those in Ukraine who exposed corruption by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
“Rudy — he did all of this... it’s him injecting himself into the process,” one U.S. official said.
Giuliani targeted the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, Marie Yovanovitch, who was prematurely ordered back to Washington in a move that upset senior officials at the State Department and the White House, officials told the Post.
In an interview with the Post, Giuliani, whose theories were mirrored in right-wing media outlets, claimed Yovanovitch was in cahoots with liberal financier George Soros and is "now working for Soros.” Yovanovitch is still employed by the State Department and is a fellow at Georgetown University.
Janison: A new yawn
When Trump addressed the UN General Assembly last year, he was surprised when the audience laughed — at him, not with him — while he was in a spasm of self-congratulation.
There wasn't much of a reaction at all for Trump's speech on Tuesday. His delivery was low-energy and subdued, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, seated alongside Vice President Mike Pence, appeared to nod off.
One of Trump's lines — "The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots." — was potentially if unintentionally ironic, given the core accusation in the Ukraine scandal that he put himself above country and Constitution.
Also reporting on Trump's UN speech, Newsday's Figueroa writes that the president repeated themes commonly found in his campaign rally speeches, such as encouraging world leaders to defend their borders from "the challenges of uncontrolled migration." There was even overlap with the cause of white nationalists as Trump declared, “The free world must embrace its national foundations. It must not attempt to erase them or replace them.”
Warren on the rise
A Monmouth University poll in New Hampshire gives Elizabeth Warren a 2-point lead over Biden, 27% to 25%, while Bernie Sanders has fallen to 12%. In 2016, Sanders won the Democratic primary there with 61% of the vote against Hillary Clinton.
On Monday, an Iowa poll also showed Warren in first place and Sanders lagging. A Suffolk University/USA Today/Reno Gazette-Journal poll of likely Nevada caucusgoers released Tuesday showed Biden on top with 23%, followed by Warren at 23% and Sanders at 14%.
Taken together, the new polling suggests Warren has cemented her status as the chief rival for Biden, Politico reports.
What else is happening:
- Trump called Pelosi Tuesday about the demand for the whistleblower complaint, offering to "figure this out," MSNBC reported. Pelosi replied, “Tell your people to obey the law," which required that such complaints be passed along to the intelligence committees.
- A Trump tweet mocked Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden who gave an emotional, grim speech at the UN Monday. "She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!" Trump posted. Rather than take the bait, Thunberg put Trump's words in her Twitter bio.
- Sanders proposed a tax on "extreme wealth," declaring, "There should be no billionaires." His plan would soak the rich more than a "wealth tax" advocated by Warren.
- Trump got tongue-tangled Tuesday while praising Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity among Indian-Americans at a rally they attended together last weekend. "He’s like an American version of Elvis," Trump said.
- Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard looks set to qualify for the Democrats' Oct. 15 debate stage after she earned enough support in the Monmouth New Hampshire poll. That makes a dozen, which means the debate may be spread over two nights.
- Negotiations with the White House on gun violence legislation such as expanded background checks may be dead, Politico reports. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a Democratic participant in the talks, embraced impeachment Tuesday. “I haven’t heard anything since Wednesday and I don’t think that’s coincidental to this crisis,” he said.