If President Trump does not release the report from a whistleblower alleging he attempted to coerce Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden, “Congress has the constitutional duty to begin impeachment proceedings and we will exercise our solemn responsibility as Members of Congress to support those proceedings,” Nevada Democratic Reps. Steven Horsford and Susie Lee said in a joint statement Tuesday.
Unlike their Nevada colleague Dina Titus, who announced her support for launch of an impeachment inquiry in July, Horsford and Lee until now have not joined calls by House Democrats to pursue impeachment.
In their statement, Horsford and Lee said they have supported attempts by Congress to investigate the president’s actions, noting specifically the House Judiciary Committee’s probe of corruption in the administration.
“Despite our past insistence that the Committee’s process should play out before any action be taken,” the freshman members of Congress said Tuesday, “the latest allegations of the President threatening to withhold a foreign nation’s aid—which was appropriated by Congress for specific purposes—as leverage to force an investigation of a political rival are an escalation that requires explicit action by this Congress.”
“If these allegations are true, as the President has admitted, he threatened our national security and abused hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars.”
Trump ordered his administration to hold back nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine just before a July phone call in which Trump reportedly pressured Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son, the Washington Post reported. Trump has said he didn’t threaten to withhold military aid if Ukraine didn’t pursue the investigation.
Trump appeared to confirm over the weekend that he had discussed former vice president Biden during the call and accused him of corruption linked to his son’s business activity in the Ukraine, The New York Times reported. The details of the conversation are reportedly part of a whistleblower complaint that Democrats want released to Congress.
House Democrats have announced a hearing Thursday where Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is slated to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a letter to her colleagues that she expects him to turn over the whistleblower’s full complaint.
“If the Administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation,” said Pelosi.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday urged the Senate’s GOP leaders to convene hearings on the matter, to issue a subpoena to compel the delivery of the complaint to Congress and to request that the White House release the transcript of Trump’s call.
“It is the Senate’s duty — duty — to take this national security matter seriously and to investigate now,” Schumer said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor Monday, accused Schumer of politicizing the matter.
McConnell said that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) was “working to get the intelligence community’s inspector general before the committee this week to discuss the matter,” the Hill reported.
Burr told CNN he wants to “bring the interested parties in,” but declined to comment further.
Tuesday’s statement from Horsford and Lee came after seven other freshman House Democrats, all veterans of the military or of the nation’s defense and intelligence agencies, published an op-ed late Monday in The Washington Post saying if true, the allegations leveled against Trump “represent an impeachable offense.”
Tuesday’s statement from Horsford and Lee reflect support for impeachment growing beyond the Democratic Party’s more progressive wing and into the ranks of the moderates. Both Lee and Horsford — who represent Nevada congressional districts 3 and 4, respectively — are in seats won by Republicans as recently as 2014. Both districts have also been targeted as potentially vulnerable by the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee and national groups allied with the GOP.
Republicans hope Lee in particular can be beat, since she is one of only 31 House Democrats serving in a congressional district Trump won in 2016.
The latest allegations have “forced us to consider the most powerful tool for accountability: that of impeachment,” Lee and Horsford said in their statement. “Make no mistake, these recent allegations are certainly dire. They point to a direct abuse of power at the expense of our national security.”
“We also urge our colleagues, regardless of party, to join us in the patriotic duty to stand up for our country and the Constitution,” the representatives said.
UPDATE: Trump later Tuesday morning tweeted that has authorized the Wednesday release “of the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript of my phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine…