The decision of the Democratic-majority US House of Representatives to launch an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump is the culmination of almost three years' worth of demands — some from even before he took charge of the White House in 2016 — by personalities from across the political and business spectrums to initiate the proceedings against Trump.
From the alleged collusion with Russia to swing the results of the 2016 presidential election to accusations of accepting payments from foreign dignitaries, there have been revelations after revelations of "misconduct" in the businessman-turned-politician's eventful tenure as the 45th US president.
While a section of the Democrats, who won a majority in the House of Representatives in 2019, has been appealing to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump, Pelosi has been reluctant to do so for a number of reasons — she has reasoned that a motion for impeachment against Trump would fail the test in the Republican-majority Senate and with an eye on the 2020 presidential election, she said it could also be "divisive".
"This strategy suggested a fear by Speaker Pelosi and others that heading down the path to impeachment would put moderate Democrats facing tough 2020 re-election fights at risk and jeopardise the party's House majority," BBC reported.
However, the latest allegation of Trump coercing Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky into digging dirt on the front-running Democratic candidate for the upcoming election, Joe Biden, has amplified the drumbeat calling for the president's impeachment, including "middle-of-the-road" politician speaking in favour of an impeachment proceeding.
On Tuesday, Pelosi announced that a formal impeachment inquiry will be launched against Trump, in which he will be charged "with betraying his oath of office and the nation’s security by seeking to enlist a foreign power to tarnish a rival for his own political gain."
She said, "The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution," adding that Trump, "must be held accountable — no one is above the law.” She added that the president’s conduct indicated the "betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections."
Amid calls for impeachment before Pelosi's announcement, Trump said that he had authorised the release of the "unredacted transcript" of the phone call with Zelensky, a move that was demanded soon after the case came to light. However, Reuters reported that the transcripts are unlikely to be verbatim.
Ever since the 79-year-old House Speaker took office in January 2019, she has spent the year seeking to keep Trump in check, challenging him on immigration policy, the budget, gun violence and more.
But Pelosi has also tamped down the impeachment groundswell, saying such a procedure should be launched only if the American people support it, and arguing that the best way to remove the Republican commander-in-chief was at the ballot box.
"I've tried to avoid the situation that we're in now because it was very divisive for the country," Pelosi told a forum Tuesday just before her announcement of the impeachment inquiry.
Earlier this year, Pelosi threaded a political needle, standing up to Trump when needed but also showing that her party is capable of working with the president to pass legislation. But that cooperation frayed. Pelosi and the Democratic leadership have hamstrung large parts of Trump's agenda, ranging from proposed new tax cuts to building a wall on the US-Mexico border.
Certainly, with the impeachment inquiry, any goodwill between Pelosi and Trump has evaporated.
Pelosi's decision to push for the impeachment inquiry against Trump was reportedly compounded by a slew of accusations facing the US president, of which the charges that he "abused his power" by asking Ukraine to investigate alleged corruption charges against Biden, was the straw.
The most high-profile investigation was that of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which spanned almost two years, into Trump's alleged collusion with Russia. However, investigation by the former FBI director, though concluding that Russia had "interfered in the election with the intention of benefitting Trump's campaign", did not establish his collusion in the case.
Also asserting that his report did not "exonerate" Trump, Mueller during a Congressional hearing stated, "Over the course of my career I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government's effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious."
Numerous lawsuits and investigations into his affairs are being carried out by Democratic-led congressional committees and by prosecutors in New York. New York prosecutors have also been probing illegal payoffs made by Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, to buy the silence of at least two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who claimed to have had affairs with Trump before he ran for president.
Cohen, who is currently serving a three-year prison term, is potentially a dangerous witness for Trump as a longtime insider who has turned against his former boss. Cohen testified that the payment he made to Daniels, which was ruled an illegal use of campaign funds, was ordered and reimbursed by Trump himself — a possible criminal act.
Additionally, in his February testimony in Congress, Cohen raised issues of financial malfeasance by Trump and the Trump Organization in banking and real estate deals. Cohen said Trump falsified data in financial disclosures to banks and insurance companies, providing more meat for federal investigators.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Sep 25, 2019 23:32:24 IST