Pelosi orders impeachment probe against Trump: ‘No one is above the law’

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announces a formal impeachment inquiry of US President Donald Trump on September 24, 2019, in Washington, DC amid mounting allegations of abuse of power by the US president. (AFP / MANDEL NGAN)
Updated 25 September 2019

Pelosi orders impeachment probe against Trump: ‘No one is above the law’

  • At issue are Trump’s actions with Ukraine. He allegedly blocked a $400 million in military aid for Ukraine as leverage in getting Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for help investigating Democrat Joe Biden and his son Hunter
  • Trump previewed his defense in an all-caps tweet: “PRESIDENTIAL HARRASSMENT!“, and asserted that his call to Ukraine's president was “a very friendly and totally appropriate call.” 

WASHINGTON: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump on Tuesday, acquiescing to mounting pressure from fellow Democrats and plunging a deeply divided nation into an election year clash between Congress and the commander in chief.
The probe centers on whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from a foreign government to undermine Democratic foe Joe Biden and help his own reelection. Pelosi said such actions would mark a “betrayal of his oath of office” and declared: “No one is above the law.”
Pelosi’s brief statement, historic yet presented without dramatic flourish, capped a frenetic stretch on Capitol Hill as details of a classified whistleblower complaint about Trump have burst into the open and momentum has shifted swiftly toward an impeachment probe. The charge was led by several moderate Democratic lawmakers from political swing districts , many of them with national security backgrounds and serving in Congress for the first time.
After more than two and one-half years of sharp Democratic criticism of Trump, the formal impeachment quest sets up the party’s most urgent and consequential confrontation with a president who thrives on combat — and injects deep uncertainty in the 2020 White House race. Trump has all but dared

Democrats to take this step, confident that the specter of impeachment led by the opposition party would bolster his political support
Trump, who was meeting with world leaders at the United Nations, previewed his defense in an all-caps tweet: “PRESIDENTIAL HARRASSMENT!“
Pelosi had barely finished speaking as he began a mini-blizzard of tweets assailing her announcement.
At issue are Trump’s actions with Ukraine. In a summer phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy , he is said to have asked for help investigating former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter. In the days before the call, Trump ordered advisers to freeze $400 million in military aid for Ukraine — prompting speculation that he was holding out the money as leverage for information on the Bidens. Trump has denied that charge, but acknowledged he blocked the funds, later released.
Biden said Tuesday, before Pelosi’s announcement, that if Trump doesn’t cooperate with lawmakers’ demands for documents and testimony in its investigations the president “will leave Congress ... with no choice but to initiate impeachment.” He said that would be a tragedy of Trump’s “own making.”
The Trump-Ukraine phone call is part of the whistleblower’s complaint, though the administration has blocked Congress from getting other details of the report, citing presidential privilege. Trump has authorized the release of a transcript of the call, which is to be made public on Wednesday .
“You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call,” Trump said.


EXPLAINER: Impeaching a US president: how the process works


Trump has sought to implicate Biden and his son in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.

While the specter of impeachment has hung over Trump for many months, the likelihood of a probe had faded after special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation ended without a clear directive for lawmakers. Democratic House committees launched new inquiries into Trump’s businesses and a variety of administration scandals, but all seemed likely to drag on for months.
But details of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine prompted Democrats to quickly shift course. By the time Pelosi addressed the nation on Tuesday, about two-thirds of House Democrats had announced moving toward impeachment probes.

The president has all but dared Democrats to take this step, repeatedly stonewalling requests for documents and witness interviews in the variety of ongoing investigations. Trump advisers say they are confident that an impeachment process led by the opposition party will bolster his political support heading into his reelection campaign.
After Pelosi’s Tuesday announcement, the president and his campaign team quickly released a series of tweets attacking Democrats, including a video of presidential critics like the speaker and Rep. Ilhan Omar discussing impeachment. It concluded with a message for the Trump faithful: “While Democrats ‘Sole Focus’ is fighting Trump, President Trump is fighting for you.”
Pelosi has for months resisted calls for impeachment from her restive caucus, warning that it would backfire against the party unless there was a groundswell of public support. That groundswell hasn’t occurred, but Pelosi suggested in comments earlier Tuesday that this new episode — examining whether a president abused his power for personal political gain — would be easier to explain to Americans than some of the issues that arose during the Mueller investigation and other congressional probes.
The speaker put the matter in stark terms on Tuesday: “The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable facts of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of his national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”


UK election exit poll suggests Conservatives majority

Updated 13 December 2019

UK election exit poll suggests Conservatives majority

LONDON: An exit poll in Britain’s election projected Thursday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party likely will win a majority of seats in Parliament, an outcome that would allow Johnson to fulfill his plan to take the UK out of the European Union next month.
The survey predicts the Conservatives will get 368 of the 650 House of Commons seats and the Labour Party 191. It projects 55 for the Scottish National Party and 13 for the Liberal Democrats. Based on interviews with voters leaving 144 polling stations across the country, the poll is conducted for a consortium of UK broadcasters and regarded as a reliable, though not exact, indicator of the likely result.
Polls have closed across the UK and ballots are being counted, with official results expected early Friday. If Conservatives do win a majority of seats, it will vindicate Johnson’s decision to press for Thursday’s early election, which was held nearly two years ahead of schedule.
He said that if the Conservatives won a majority, he would get Parliament to ratify his Brexit divorce deal and take the UK out of the EU by the current Jan. 31 deadline. That would fulfill the decision of British voters in 2016 to leave the EU, three and a half years after the divisive referendum result. It would start a new phase of negotiations on future relations between Britain and the 27 remaining EU members.
A Conservative victory would also raise questions over the future of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who will have led his left-of-center party to two electoral defeats since 2017.
The British pound surged on the news, jumping over two cents against the dollar, to $1.3445, the highest in more than a year and a half. Many investors hope a Conservative win would speed up the Brexit process and ease, at least in the short term, some of the uncertainty that has corroded business confidence since the 2016 vote.
The prime minister had pushed for this early election to try to break a logjam in Parliament that stalled approval of his Brexit agreement.
The Conservatives have focused much energy on trying to win in a “red wall” of working-class towns in central and northern England that have elected Labour lawmakers for decades but also voted strongly in 2016 to leave the EU. Polls suggest the plan may be working. The Conservatives also have been helped by the Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage, which decided at the last minute not to contest 317 Conservative-held seats to avoid splitting the pro-Brexit vote.
Labour, which is largely but ambiguously pro-EU, faces competition for anti-Brexit voters from the centrist Liberal Democrats, the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties, and the Greens.
Labour has tried to focus the campaign on the plight of the National Health Service, a deeply respected institution that has struggled to meet rising demand after nine years of austerity under Conservative-led governments.
One of the campaign’s defining images was a photo of a sick 4-year-old boy sleeping on a hospital floor because no beds were available. Johnson’s initial failure to even look at the photo put him on the defensive, portraying him as insensitive to the child’s plight.
The photo, initially published by the Yorkshire Evening Post, swept across social media like a firestorm in the final days of the campaign.
For many voters, the election offers an unpalatable choice. Both Johnson and Corbyn have personal approval ratings in negative territory, and both have been dogged by questions about their character.
Johnson has been confronted by his past broken promises, lies and offensive statements, from calling the children of single mothers “ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate” to comparing Muslim women who wear face-covering veils to “letter boxes.”
Corbyn has been accused of allowing anti-Semitism to spread within the party. The 70-year-old left-winger is portrayed by opponents as an aging Marxist with unsavory past associations with Hamas and the IRA.