Trump confirms he discussed Biden with Ukrainian president
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s acknowledgment Sunday that he used a phone call with Ukraine’s president to accuse his chief political rival of corruption intensified pressure on Democrats to quickly move toward impeaching him, fueling pleas from a growing chorus of lawmakers for more aggressive action in the face of what they called Trump’s most brazen misconduct so far.
On Sunday alone, the influential chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who has thus far resisted calls for impeachment, said the House may now have “crossed the Rubicon” in light of new reports that Trump pressed the Ukrainian government to target former Vice President Joe Biden, and is refusing to share with Congress a whistleblower complaint said to be related to it. A group of moderate freshman lawmakers who had been opposed to an impeachment inquiry considered changing course. And progressives already supportive of the move sharpened their criticisms of the party’s leadership for not acting more decisively.
The fast-moving developments prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to level a warning of her own to the White House: turn over the secret whistleblower complaint by Thursday, or face a serious escalation from Congress.
In a letter to House Democrats, Pelosi never mentioned the word “impeachment,” but her message appeared to hint at the possibility that the new revelations might be enough to prompt her and other leading Democrats to drop their resistance to moving forward with official charges against the president.
“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,” Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in the letter.
Trump showed no sign of contrition Sunday as he reveled privately in a tempest of his own making, telling aides that Democrats were overplaying their hand on a matter voters would discount. Publicly, he worked to focus attention not on his own actions, but on those of Biden.
The president defended his July phone call with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine as entirely appropriate, and stopped short of directly confirming news reports about what was discussed. But he did acknowledge that he had discussed Biden during the call and accused the former vice president of corruption tied to his son Hunter’s business activities in the former Soviet republic.
“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump told reporters before leaving for a trip to Texas and Ohio.
It is far from clear that the latest scandal surrounding Trump’s conduct will prompt Pelosi or other leading Democrats to do what they have so far stubbornly avoided in the face of damning allegations. The House Judiciary Committee is already investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment against Trump over other matters, but Pelosi has consistently questioned the strength of their case.
Proponents of impeachment have repeatedly pointed to damaging revelations that they believe warrant Trump’s removal, only to watch as the public shrugs and many of their colleagues remain unwilling to try to remove him. This time, Democrats would have the added difficulty of trying to explain to voters who hear Trump’s attacks on Biden that they are not acting simply out of partisan spite.