Leslie Marshall: Pelosi undeterred by Trump’s Twitter tirades as impeachment inquiry takes shape
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been very hesitant to move forward with anything regarding impeachment.
Pelosi has repeatedly said she needed evidence, facts and bipartisan support. Many in her own party wondered why she was dragging her feet, when the more progressive left faction of the Democratic Party had been pushing for impeachment since Special Counsel Robert Mueller first started his investigation.
So many of us, myself included, were surprised when the speaker this week started a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, accusing him of betraying his oath of office and endangering the nation’s security by seeking to enlist a foreign power to tarnish a rival for his own political gain.
But more so, the timing of this was questioned by many. Why didn't Pelosi wait for the actual transcript of Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine to be released? Or for the whistleblower complaint to become public? Or the testimony of acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, or the intelligence community's Inspector General Michael Atkinson? Why couldn't she wait a few days?
Shortly after Pelosi’s announcement, in addition to the typical Twitter attacks by the president and his usual claims of a "witch hunt," there were also attacks on Pelosi. The attacks came not only from rank-and-file Republicans, but specifically from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who strongly criticized the speaker's decision to launch an impeachment inquiry.
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"What I'm concerned [about] now is the speaker of the House changed the course of that office for the history of this country," McCarthy said. "That a body that brings legislation, a body that represents the rule of law, would change the course of what it actually means. To claim that a president had violated a law with no information, based it on a whistleblower she does not know that wasn't even on a phone call, to claim that the president did a quid pro quo and mentioned Biden's name eight times, but when this transcript comes out I want — is it out?”
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"So I think at the end of the day the speaker owes an apology to this nation, and I think it's even a question why she should stay in her job," McCarthy added.
Now that more information has come out, such as the whistleblower complaint, nearly all House Democrats favor at least an impeachment inquiry, with some going farther and saying Trump should be impeached.
A number of Republicans in the Senate are keeping themselves at more than an arm's length from Trump, and we are seeing evidence indicating that some could vote in favor of impeachment. So is Pelosi about to gain what she sought by announcing an impeachment inquiry?
The president's words and actions in recent days haven't helped his case. He keeps unleashing furious outbursts over the whistleblower revelations.
McCarthy might believe Pelosi jumped the gun, was out of line or just plain wrong, but there are many who back the speaker's decision – and not all of those supporters are Democrats.
Nearly 300 former U.S. foreign policy and national security officials have signed a letter backing the impeachment inquiry. In the letter, published Friday, the officials write that Trump's urging Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden constitutes a “profound national security concern” for the United States.
"To be clear, we do not wish to prejudge the totality of the facts or Congress’ deliberative process," the letter states. "At the same time, there is no escaping that what we already know is serious enough to merit impeachment proceedings."
"President Trump appears to have leveraged the authority and resources of the highest office in the land to invite additional foreign interference into our democratic processes," they write, "That would constitute an unconscionable abuse of power. It also would represent an effort to subordinate America’s national interests — and those of our closest allies and partners — to the president’s personal political interest."
The letter was signed by many former Obama administration officials as well as some who served in the Bush administration, including Matthew Olsen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center.
So maybe Pelosi was right?
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After all, the whispers on the Hill that Pelosi was going to act led not only to the president calling her twice in the hours before the announcement, but also to his own announcement that he would release the transcript of his call to Ukraine's president, which Maguire had previously refused to give Congress.
Could this be the smoking gun Pelosi was waiting for?
The president's words and actions in recent days haven't helped his case. He keeps unleashing furious outbursts over the whistleblower revelations. Pelosi and others have voiced concern over some of Trump's comments comparing the whistleblower to a spy, which some interpret as suggesting the person should be executed.
Now that we have heard from both the acting director of national intelligence and the intelligence community's inspector general, we know the whistleblower is credible. We know this wasn't a partisan act, as so many Republicans want us to believe. We know that a handful of individuals approached the whistleblower with their concerns over potential abuse of power from the executive branch.
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In just the past few days, public support for moving forward with impeachment has increased, with some polls showing an increase of 7 percent in favor of the inquiry. This addresses another of Pelosi's concerns — the potential divisiveness the process could have on our nation.
The inquiry will deeply delve into whether the whistleblower was right to be concerned about the president's promise to a foreign leader. Time will tell if Pelosi was right to act. One sign will be if she gets bipartisan support should the matter come to a vote in the House — and another will be if voters don't punish Democrats in 2020 for her decision.
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