Trump under growing threat as more Democrats urge impeachment

Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Donald Trump was at greater risk of impeachment than at any time in his presidency on Tuesday, after reports that he apparently sought to blackmail a foreign government by withholding military aid unless it helped investigate a political opponent.

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Even as the president took centre stage at the United Nations in New York to venerate his nationalist ideology, Democrats met behind closed doors on Capitol Hill in Washington to decide whether the time had come to seek his removal from office.

withhold nearly $400m in aid to Ukraine days before he pressured the country’s president to investigate Joe Biden, the former US vice-president and frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, according to the Washington Post.” data-reactid=”19″>Trump ordered White House staff to withhold nearly $400m in aid to Ukraine days before he pressured the country’s president to investigate Joe Biden, the former US vice-president and frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, according to the Washington Post.

Biden, in an address delivered from Wilmington, Delaware, the state he represents, said that Congress would have “no choice but to initiate impeachment” if the president refuses to comply with requests from Congress for information about dealings with Ukraine. It was further than the former vice-president has gone before in supporting impeachment calls.” data-reactid=”20″>On Tuesday afternoon, Biden, in an address delivered from Wilmington, Delaware, the state he represents, said that Congress would have “no choice but to initiate impeachment” if the president refuses to comply with requests from Congress for information about dealings with Ukraine. It was further than the former vice-president has gone before in supporting impeachment calls.

“I can take the political attacks. They’ll come and they’ll go and in time they’ll soon be forgotten,” Biden said. “But if we allow a president to get away with shredding the constitution, that will last forever.”

The scandal appeared to cut through with greater force and clarity than the drawn out saga of his alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 election. There was a sense of gathering momentum as more Democrats came out in favour of impeachment.

Article 1 of the United States constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to initiate impeachment and the Senate the sole power to try impeachments of the president. A president can be impeached if they are judged to have committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” – although the constitution does not specify what “high crimes and misdemeanors” are.

The process starts with the House of Representatives passing articles of impeachment. A simple majority of members need to vote in favour of impeachment for it to pass to the next stage. With a full house, that requires 218 of the 435 representatives to vote. Democrats currently control the house, with 235 representatives.

The chief justice of the United States then presides over the proceedings in the Senate, where the president is tried, with senators acting as the jury. For the president to be found guilty two-thirds of senators must vote against them. Republicans currently control the Senate, with 53 of the 100 senators.

Three presidents have previously been impeached, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Andrew Johnson in 1868, though neither were removed from office. Richard Nixon was also impeached, but resigned in 1974 before there was a formal vote.

“I truly believe the time to begin impeachment proceedings against this president has come,” John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement and moral authority in the party, told the House of Representatives. “To delay or to do otherwise would betray the foundation of our democracy.”

There was also support from an influential group of seven first-term members of Congress with military or national security backgrounds, who said that “if true”, the president’s actions would “represent an impeachable offense”.

Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, who forced the White House to eventually release the aid to Ukraine, told reporters the time to act is now. Connecticut senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy backed impeachment. Media reports said Biden himself would announce his support for impeaching Trump if the White House does not cooperate with Congress’s whistleblower investigation.

2020 election.” data-reactid=”33″>After months of procrastination among Democratic leaders, some believe that impeachment is now inevitable, setting the stage for a vicious 2020 election.

I truly believe the time to begin impeachment proceedings against this president has come

John Lewis

All eyes were on Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, who has repeatedly said an impeachment inquiry should be bipartisan and supported by the American people. Pelosi still has support from neither Republicans nor a majority of the people. She was due to hold meetings with key committee chairs. It was reported that she would then announce a formal impeachment inquiry.

said that he would release the “fully declassified and un-redacted transcript” of the call on Wednesday.” data-reactid=”40″>He later said that he would release the “fully declassified and un-redacted transcript” of the call on Wednesday.

Impeachment has only been enforced against two previous presidents, most recently Bill Clinton. Like Clinton, Trump would almost certainly not be convicted by the Senate, which is controlled by his party, and so would remain in power. Richard Nixon resigned before impeachment could be carried out. In the 1860s, Andrew Johnson survived a Senate trial.

withhold nearly $400m in aid to Ukraine days before the call took place. ” data-reactid=”43″>On 25 July the US president, Donald Trump, called Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy. During the course of the call he reportedly asked the Ukrainian leader eight times to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter for corruption. It is additionally reported that Trump ordered his staff to withhold nearly $400m in aid to Ukraine days before the call took place. 

confirmed he discussed the Bidens with Zelenskiy, and accused the pair – without offering any evidence – of corruption.” data-reactid=”44″>Biden is one of the frontrunners to win the Democratic nomination and take on Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Trump confirmed he discussed the Bidens with Zelenskiy, and accused the pair – without offering any evidence – of corruption.

A US intelligence community whistleblower filed a report after becoming alarmed at Trump’s behaviour in the matter. The White House is refusing to release the substance of the whistleblower complaint, setting up a confrontation with Congress over the release of information. Complaints of this nature are usually reported to Congress within seven days.

Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, has admitted asking the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens. It is illegal for a political campaign to accept a “thing of value” from a foreign government. Democrats say an investigation into a political opponent – for which Trump appears to have been pushing – would amount to a thing of value.

The Ukraine scandal came to light last week when an intelligence community whistleblower filed a report after becoming alarmed at Trump’s behaviour. The White House is refusing to release the substance of the complaint.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump reportedly asked the Ukrainian leader to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, who was once on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.” data-reactid=”49″>According to the Post, Trump ordered acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to suspend a near $400m payment “at least a week” before a 25 July call with Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump reportedly asked the Ukrainian leader to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, who was once on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

The company was investigated for corruption. As vice-president, Biden was part of successful international efforts to have Ukraine’s chief prosecutor dismissed.

There is no evidence of corruption in the Ukraine by either Joe or Hunter Biden.

On Tuesday, Trump confirmed that he withheld military aid – but claimed he did so over concerns the US was contributing more than its fair share compared with other countries.

Joe Biden and his son are corrupt, but the fake news doesn’t want to report it because they’re Democrats

Donald Trump

A day earlier, he attempted to turn the tables and say the true corruption lies with Biden and the media.

“Joe Biden and his son are corrupt, but the fake news doesn’t want to report it because they’re Democrats,” Trump said. “If a Republican ever did what Joe Biden did…they’d be getting the electric chair by right. ”

Most congressional Republicans have either defended the president or remained silent.

Democratic chairs of three House committees have demanded the White House turn over all documents related to “efforts to influence a foreign country to interfere with our upcoming election”.

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Trump is due to meet Zelenskiy at the UN on Wednesday.