After months of pushing back against members of her own party, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced late Tuesday afternoon that she was directing the formation of an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. What she means by “impeachment inquiry” is still somewhat murky since actual impeachment proceedings require a vote in the House.
At this point, Pelosi’s move looks to be the beginning of investigations by various House committees, controlled by Democrats, into crimes which may be grounds for impeachment. The move was finally pushed to this point, says Pelosi, by a whistleblower report of a phone call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president in which Trump reportedly pushed Ukraine to investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, specifically his son Hunter. The backstory to that, and why Biden’s son has anything to do with Ukraine, is related to Hunter Biden’s seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
This story is still evolving and may change rapidly, especially as the White House moves to release a full and unredacted transcript of the phone call in question, and the complete report filed by the anonymous whistleblower inside the government will also soon become public.
There are many, many political angles to this story, but we will focus on the 2020 presidential election angle and see what the candidates are saying and how their view on impeachment has changed over time.
Up to this point, former vice president Joe Biden has been cool on impeachment. Back in early June, Biden said impeachment would be a “gigantic distraction” from the things that need to get done in the country.
More recently, after Pelosi’s move on Tuesday, Biden has warmed somewhat to the move of impeaching President Trump. Biden still qualified his statement saying that impeachment is warranted over the Ukraine phone call if and only if the White House tries to stonewall Congress in the release of information, such as transcripts of the call. In total, his position hasn’t changed much as he has consistently said on the record he is against impeachment unless and until the President does something that creates a scenario where it’s unavoidable, in Biden’s words.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has been a consistent and vocal supporter of launching impeachment investigations into President Trump for several months now. In late July, Warren had continued saying that the report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller was an “impeachment roadmap” that Congress should use to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.
More recently, this week, Warren reiterated her call for impeachment and said that up to this point, Congress has been derelict in its duty to hold the President accountable:
I called for impeachment five months ago, the day after the Mueller report came out. Trump continues to commit crimes because he believes he’s above the law. If Congress does nothing to respond, he’ll be right.
We must begin impeachment proceedings—now. https://t.co/aHbX63coJC
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) September 24, 2019
Warren has been consistently on the record in favor of impeachment so she will be pleased by the move on Tuesday from Speaker Pelosi.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has had a few varying positions on impeachment. Back in June, Sanders was very bullish on the prospects and said that he believes the House Judiciary Committee should immediately begin impeachment inquiries. He qualified the statement by saying he supports investigations into whether crimes were committed, but did not support impeachment, yet.
By July, Sanders was taking a slightly different tone warning his fellow Democrats that President Trump may be welcoming an impeachment fight since it could help energize Republican voters in 2020. “I am not certain that Trump does not want the Congress to go forward with impeachment where there may not be the votes to in fact impeach him,” Sanders said.
This week, however, Bernie said “enough is enough” and called on the process to begin:
Donald Trump is the most corrupt president in the modern history of this country.
Enough is enough.
I hope the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House will begin the impeachment process. pic.twitter.com/WHth62v5br
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) September 24, 2019
South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been tempered in the way he has answered questions about impeachment earlier in the year. Back in May, when the Mueller report came out, Buttigieg said it was as close to impeachment referral as it could be and it would be up to Congress to act and flesh out the details.
Later in June, at an MSNBC town hall, when further pressed on the topic, Buttigieg said he would vote in favor of impeachment if he was in Congress and that President Trump “deserves” impeachment.
On Tuesday, Buttigieg appeared on CNN to discuss his current views on the issue:
This is a moment of truth. This isn’t just about this president. This is about the American presidency—and we need to draw the line. pic.twitter.com/wZ2S20aIBr
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) September 25, 2019
Sen. Kamala Harris of California has been a vocal supporter of impeachment for many months now. She was one of the first to begin support full-blown impeachment proceedings back in April of this year, months before some her colleagues. “I believe Congress should take the steps towards impeachment,” Harris said at the time.
On Tuesday, Harris spoke to reporters and provided a long list of reasons why she supports Pelosi’s move and thinks impeachment proceedings are long overdue. “I strongly believe that it is long past due that we begin impeachment proceedings against this President,” Harris said.
Harris also reiterated her support for Pelosi on twitter:
Donald Trump has abused his power, obstructed justice, and violated his oath of office. He puts his political interests over our national interest.
I agree with @SpeakerPelosi — no one is above the law.
He must be impeached.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 24, 2019
President Donald Trump is the sitting president, but he’s also a 2020 candidate as well since he is the incumbent running for reelection. The President came out swinging, as expected on Tuesday, against Pelosi and House Democrats with a tirade of tweets. His first response was short and to the point:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2019
There has been no President in the history of our Country who has been treated so badly as I have. The Democrats are frozen with hatred and fear. They get nothing done. This should never be allowed to happen to another President. Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 25, 2019
The President also began hitting back against allegations that he abused his power in exerting influence over Ukraine when he spoke with the Ukrainian President:
Secretary of State Pompeo recieved permission from Ukraine Government to release the transcript of the telephone call I had with their President. They don’t know either what the big deal is. A total Witch Hunt Scam by the Democrats!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2019
What this all means?
For the presidential race, it means basically a continuation of the status quo unless something drastic is unearthed during investigations. In some respects, this hearkens back to the Mueller report and the ongoing daily political tit for tat between Trump and Congressional Democrats, and the 2020 Democratic candidates.
With the White House aiming to release a transcript of the call sometime today, and perhaps the whistleblower report that set off this firestorm as soon as it is cleared, this story is sure to change rapidly.
What does this mean for Joe Biden?
The other unexplored aspect of this story is whether there is truth to the allegation that Hunter Biden received some cushy board position within a Ukrainian energy company under nefarious circumstances. This question was allegedly being investigated by a Ukrainian prosecutor and it’s now claimed that Joe Biden, as Vice President, exerted power over the Ukraine government to end the investigation and fire the prosecutor. That investigation, which was abandoned, may be reopened by the Ukrain government, according to reports.
Other sources are calling the Hunter Biden connection “bogus.”
There are many moving parts to this story wrapped up in Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry. Some of the dust will settle over the next 24 hours and we will have a clearer picture of what it means for the race and the country moving forward.