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A raging controversy over whether President Donald Trump pressured Ukraine’s new president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden has persuaded Speaker Nancy Pelosi to do what she resisted for months, launch an impeachment inquiry of the president.

The move increases the likelihood that Trump will become the third U.S. president to be impeached. But even if the Democratic House acts, it’s unlikely the Republican Senate would vote to oust Trump from office.

“The actions of the Trump presidency have 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,” Pelosi said. Most of her fellow Democrats now favor impeachment, but polls before the current controversy showed a majority of those surveyed opposes it.

Carl Leubsdorf

Carl Leubsdorf

One purpose of the proceedings will be to convince the public that Trump’s impeachment is justified.

At the heart of the furor is both Trump’s July 25 conversation with President Volodymyr Zelensky, the transcript of which the president has now released, and a whistleblower’s still-secret report that news accounts said expressed “urgent concern” about the president’s contacts with a foreign leader, including an unspecified troubling “promise.”

The stunning move came just days after leading news organizations reported — and Trump essentially confirmed — that he pushed in the call to revive the probe of the former vice president, shown in polls to be Trump’s strongest 2020 Democratic opponent and his son, Hunter.

The summary White House transcript showed Trump mentioned the Bidens three times to Zelensky though The Wall Street Journal said he mentioned them eight times in the conversation, which came days after he directed aides to withhold nearly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine.

Some Democrats said the intersection of these events indicated Trump may have suggested Ukraine might not get the aid unless it investigated the Bidens. Trump has flatly denied any quid pro quo or that he pressured Zelensky.

But he acknowledged raising their names in the context of a discussion about possible corruption in the former Soviet republic, asking Monday, “Why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?”

Under the Constitution’s Article II, Trump has said he has “the right to do whatever I want as president.” But federal law says no one may “solicit, accept or receive” from foreign nationals “a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value.” Negative information about a potential rival could easily be defined as a “thing of value.”

Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company at a time his father, then vice president, made major U.S. decisions on policy there, notably ousting a prosecutor widely believed to be corrupt. Though the Bidens showed disrespect for the ethical proprieties, there has been no evidence to date of wrongdoing.

Trump and his personal attorney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have sought for months to reopen the investigation in order to damage Biden.

The call to Zelensky came a day after special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony to Congress ended his two-year inquiry by neither charging Trump with a crime nor exonerating him.

Trump’s releasing the phone call transcript won’t satisfy congressional Democrats. Pelosi stressed Congress is entitled to the whistleblower’s report by the laws governing intelligence agencies, which she helped write. And both party’s Senate leaders backed a resolution demanding to see it.

This case epitomizes the administration’s repeated refusal to provide Congress the kind of information that was routine in prior administrations.

Frustrated Democrats hope that formal impeachment probe will make that easier. But Trump, backed by his new attorney general, William Barr, has contended that almost all administration decision-making is protected by “executive privilege” under which aides don’t have to disclose discussions with the president.

The president also said there is nothing wrong with soliciting dirt about potential opponents from foreign governments. If someone comes up with information, “I think I’d take it,” he said in a June interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “They all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

His stance echoes former President Richard Nixon’s more than 40 years ago when he told interviewer David Frost that, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

But Nixon’s own case showed the limits to presidential actions. Only his resignation saved him from impeachment and conviction on several counts stemming from his efforts to cover up the Watergate break-in, including obstruction of justice and withholding information from Congress.

Still, it took more than a year of Senate and House hearings for the American public to turn against Nixon. With the 2020 election just 13 months away, the Democrats simply don’t have that much time.

The House may well act. But when all is said and done, the bottom line remains that the American voters, not Congress, will render the final verdict on Trump’s fitness for office.

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Carl P. Leubsdorf is the former Washington bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News. He can be reached at carl.p.leubsdorf@gmail.com.

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(26) comments

Hive

To you...we will see.

bolake

Hive - A second Whistleblower means nothing. We already have the transcript from the phone call. Pretty clear there is no smoking gun. Of course unless you’re a Trump Hater.



Just like the Kavanaugh confirmation, false accusations, no truth or facts. Don’t get fooled again.



Speaking of election meddling... Bidens son gets $1.5 Billion from China and Trump Jr. gets ZERO from China. Who do you think China is rooting for. Someone gives your son $1.5 Billion and you don’t owe them anything? Where there is smoke there is fire. Right?

Hive

Ya gotta love it, as a second witness comes forth...a rising swamp may not get drained but America will not have to plead, for not waves cuz the POTUS etal, crappola is nose-high!

Another prediction...republicans in Congress are going to spin like nuts shortly...and lose. Then what hero? Let's all hope we have learned a lesson and recall freedom is more precious than rubies and keep working.

bolake

Hive - You are so gullible. You and your “where there is smoke there is fire “. For three years Adam $hittt professed to have indisputable prof that Trump was a Russian Operative. Had proof that Trump worked with the Russians to steel the election from Hillary. Had proof that Trump committed Treason. After a two year investigation by Muller, there was no proof there was no fire. Only Adam $hittt’s smoke and mirrors. Once again $hittt is at it with his smoke and mirror show and you bought front row seats. The Democrats know and have admitted that they will lose the 2020 election and the only hope they have at defeating Trump is to impeach him. This is exactly what the founders wanted impeachment to be used for. Right?

Hive

Yeah, Bo, you know, just like POTUS and Congress. Please.

bolake

Guys get over it, Trump made no threat and no quid pro quo was offered to Ukraine President. It was announced back in May that Attorney General Barr would be looking into the source of the Trump 'dossier' and potential illegal use of FISA warrants used to spy on Trump campaign. You guys continue to act as if Democrats have done nothing wrong or illegal. Let’s wait for this to play out. Better to wait until the fat lady sings. If Pelosi and Democrats want to impeach Trump they should bring it to a vote.



Hive did You forget Comey gave Hillary a pass on criminal charges? Total bull roar. How come foreign donations to Clinton Foundation dried up as soon as she lost election to Trump. No quid pro quo? Right. Biden threatens to withhold funds to Ukraine and brags about it and you are ok with that? Bidens son is paid $Millions from corrupt Ukraine Power Company and you are ok with that? China gives Bidens son $1.5 Billion and you ok with that?



Flynn is facing jail time for admission of a lie he did not commit yet Comey and others walk free.



All I’m asking is for Equal Justice Under The Law, regardless of party affiliations. You, Kill and JD only seen to think that Republicans and Conservatives break the law are you guys really that blind?

killallthelawyersfirst

Not to worry re below. POTUS has expanded the meaning of the word "Trump." Typical swampy chaos is what we see. Barr made his self-ruinous choice; history will trample (Trump) him, same future for all doing POTUS bidding. What happened to nation's protectors? Government denies established defensive institutions to aggrandize themselves and an off-the-reservation POTUS? We now have Congresspersons willing to jeopardize America to curry favor or play politics...let'us hope they do not get their wish.

Hive

Hillary? Seems she dealt with Republican House and Senate and so on. And, was not found wanting by the federals (DOJ and FBI) etc. Besides, has little to do with current problems.

Hive

Below is "Hive" not "Killallthelawyersfirst." It's complicated.

Hive

Bo, get a grip...America's democratice republic is at risk...ask yourself why. It ain't "democrats" threatening Law!

killallthelawyersfirst

Bo wrote: "What the “Framers” feared were political opponents using strong hand of government to silence their opponents."

Stong hand of Trump is not government, with threats galore...?

The "Framers" feared ignorance in a "Democratic Republic"...as Lincoln said of implied, give people a chance. Ignorance can be dangerous, as POTUS demonstrates daily.

If the boss is flawed, what's that say about his minions?

Civil War indeed. Wish I thought that highly of meself.

For those about to climb out of the lake, "the danger is the current of dimness...dimness...dimness!

bolake

Hillary and DNC pay British Spy to dig up dirt on Trump.

Biden pressures Ukraine President to fire prosecutor.

What was the results of these smoking fires?



What some forget is if you’re a Democrat you can get away with anything. What the “Framers” feared were political opponents using strong hand of government to silence their opponents.

Hive

Bo, is what he is and there are a few others. How does a democratic republic deal with them?

Are we a "banana republic" A person in power does to one, and gets away with it, what about when it happens to us?

Shades of 1930s and events surrounding

Bosnia, recently.

What some forget are the consequences of ignoring "smoke," which means fire; precisely what the "Framers" feared would happen.

Real stuff!!!

jdinfinity

LOL...

Once again Bo, so dense man. So dense.

What I believe what Hive is getting at is that some people will follow anyone for any reason because they are too stupid and incapable of making decisions on their own...

And others are just too stupid to even know what the expression means...

bolake

Hive - I’m confused. What exactly triggered your lake jumping comment?

Hive

Rumor: Small,baby girl ordered Bo and a load of Trump followers to : "Go jump in the lake!"

And they all did!

Hive

Your ? : "What makes you think they wouldn’t do it again if what you say plays out. "

Answer: "Dinger POTUS!" Duh!

bolake

Hive - We had our chance with Romney but Lamestream Media attacked him viciously and mocked him every chance they got. What makes you think they wouldn’t do it again if what you say plays out. Lamestream Media is in the Tank for any and every Democrat candidate.

bolake

Well we can add the Whistleblower to the long list of Trump haters with A Go Fund Me account.

Strzok, McCabe, Blasey Ford, Stormy...



Like I said if you want to get rich quick just get in the news with dirt on Trump. At least Comey wrote a book.

Hive

Moreover, if this mess seems more a zero-sum contest (Republicans v Dems) it is only because the POTUS operates that way. He knows no other avenue...dinger-dufus 100%.

Hive

About the only way, and maybe the best way, the nation and Republicans can save face is via Romney, who has the golden opportunity to salavage what POTUS has swamped, and if that is the case, POTUS, if he remains in office, will do his ego thing and quit, before he is squished...and, if that happens, watch what the republicans who backed this dinger do!

And learn something! The dems seem clueless (re Romney) at his stage, to me!

Hive

Again, considering his past, this duck will run. There are suggestions he will try to stick, but even POTUS isn't that dim, but???

Hive

Bo, read the Federalist Papers! These were written mostly by three conservatives during the period when the Constitution was being quietly and singly hand-written, un-aided and un-asked.(Know whom?)

If mem serves the writing took 'til 1788 and its ratification was close and bitter, but accepted.

Still, you read the stuff and you will note one thing, fear of ignorance pervaded...because the rule was "given to the people." And "the framers" feared we might not be albe to handle their bequest.

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist." This view remain a popular quote of Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican. Seems we ignored Ike?

Then there is this: ”Most governments have been based, practically, on the denial of the equal rights of men, as I have, in part, stated them; ours began by affirming those rights. They said, some men are too ignorant and vicious to share in government. Possibly so, said we; and, by your system, you would always keep them ignorant and vicious. We proposed to give all a chance; and we expected the weak to grow stronger, the ignorant wiser, and all better and happier together.

We made the experiment, and the fruit is before us." And will always be so, if the experiment continues and besides us, only Mother Nature has a say.

Lincoln, another republican, later observed:

"You...cannot fool all the people all the time." Imperfect simple truth, which is not what comes from (this)POTUS, in particular.

Might have been good had Trump learned of these things??? Truth needs little work. America is not minority or monarchy, is it?

Hive

I think DT will resign. His gambit...

Spends more time screwing around than doing the job. A true dinger. Makes Arnold and Hillary and Pence-behind-the-chair) look like saints.

bolake

Yes we must impeach Trump...

REP. AL GREEN: “If we don’t impeach this president, he will get re-elected.” This is why Democrats insist on impeachment, they know none of the Democrat 2020 hopefuls can beat Trump.

I’m sure this is what the founders intended. If you can’t beat your opponents you must impeach them.

Really???

Hive

CL: "One purpose of the proceedings will be to convince the public that Trump’s impeachment is justified."

And, it should be that the public drives Congress, but is that the case?

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