SPONSORED:

Democrats see whistleblower report as smoking gun

For months, President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE’s critics have been scouring his record in search of the smoking gun that might compel voters to back impeachment. 

With this week’s release of a damning whistleblower report revealing Trump’s questionable dealings with Ukraine’s president, some lawmakers think they’ve found it.  

"I think that's the missing link; that's what we've been waiting for,” Rep. G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldCongress must protect kidney disease patients during the COVID-19 pandemic The time for HELP is now: Senate should pass bill to expedite recovery following natural disasters Rep. Clyburn on Confederate statues: Mob action is no answer MORE (D-N.C.), a former leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, told The Hill. “Now all the dots connect, and I think there's a clear and compelling case for impeachment.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

Rep. Judy ChuJudy May ChuDHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility Hispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Lawmakers of color blast Trump administration for reportedly instructing agencies to end anti-bias training MORE (D-Calif.), head of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, delivered a similar assessment. 

"In general, the feeling is that it more than adds to our case that the president broke the law and that he violated the Constitution,” she said. “They certainly look to me like they're impeachable offenses."

Just a week ago, the liberal effort to convince Democratic leaders to impeach Trump appeared to be a long shot. The White House was stonewalling the Democrats’ investigations; the calendar was quickly shrinking and the 2020 elections inching closer; and only 130 lawmakers had endorsed an inquiry — well below the 218 needed to pass articles of impeachment on the House floor. 

But the revelation that Trump had pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter Trump narrows Biden's lead in Pennsylvania: poll Florida breaks first-day early voting record with 350K ballots cast MORE — and the allegation that he’d threatened to withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless Zelensky complied — has quickly changed the math. 

Scores of Democrats from across the party’s ideological spectrum came out this week in support of an impeachment inquiry (the number now stands at 220). More significantly, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election GOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas MORE (D-Calif.) on Tuesday did the same, calling Trump’s dealings with Zelensky “a betrayal” of his office and a threat to national security.

The next day, Trump, promising it would vindicate him, released a memo detailing the phone call. And on Thursday morning, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats Ratcliffe, Schiff battle over Biden emails, politicized intelligence MORE (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, released the declassified whistleblower report that had launched the saga. 

Both only added fuel to the fire.

"It's confirmation of everything we knew: that he was essentially trying to collude with a foreign government to interfere with an election,” said Rep. Dan KildeeDaniel (Dan) Timothy KildeeLawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal Democrats set to hold out for big police reform More than 100 Democrats press Trump to extend jobless benefits MORE (D-Mich.). “And he can't even deny it; now he just has to say it's OK.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Even those Democrats who have declined to endorse impeachment seemed to be reconsidering in light of the new revelations. 

"It doesn't look good for the president, that's for sure,” said Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindRepublican fears grow over rising Democratic tide Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind wins primary Democrats exit briefing saying they fear elections under foreign threat MORE (D-Wis.). “Trying to strong-arm a foreign leader to meddle in our election and holding up military aid. Boy, what part of this does he not get is illegal?" 

Still, Pelosi is sounding a warning to those lawmakers who want to impeach Trump yesterday: Not so fast. While the Speaker on Tuesday took the momentous step of endorsing a “formal impeachment inquiry," she’s also treading cautiously as the Intelligence Committee seeks additional information and testimony related to the Ukraine episode.  

"There are some in our caucus who think, 'Let's just have an impeachment.' No, we have to have an inquiry to further establish the facts," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol on Thursday. "There is no rush to judgment, and in some ways we are a jury, open to what might be exculpatory or not." 

Butterfield endorsed the idea of continuing the Intelligence Committee investigation, not least as a tool for educating voters to the details of the Ukraine affair. But he also warned against dragging out the process, saying he’s hoping Democrats can pass articles within six weeks.

“Certainly, there always needs to be more investigation, but based on what we have right now, I think there's a prima facie case for removal from office,” Butterfield said. “Not just impeachment, but removal." 

“This is clear and compelling,” he added. 

Meanwhile, many progressive activists and lawmakers say they’ve seen all they need to see; they want to move straight to articles of impeachment now rather than wait for a weeks- or months-long investigation they fear could drag into 2020 because of Trump stonewalling.

At a MoveOn impeachment rally outside the Capitol, just hours after the public release of the complaint on Thursday, Public Citizen President Robert Weissman led activists in a call and response.

“What do we need?” he yelled. “Impeachment!” the crowd shouted back. 

“When do we need it?” Weissman screamed. “Now!” the crowd responded.

Some progressive leaders speaking at the rally agreed. 

“We’ve actually finally reached the tipping point in our resolve to hold this president accountable. This morning, I was shocked but not surprised to see the contents of the whistleblower complaint … Abuse of power, intimidating a foreign government, and even hiding the transcript,” said Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeOcasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts Democrats accuse tech companies of deceitful tactics in campaign against Calif. ballot measure Congress fiddles while the US burns, floods, and ails MORE (D-Calif.), a liberal bomb thrower from the San Francisco Bay Area who was one of the earliest and loudest advocates for impeachment. 

“Trump has betrayed his oath of office. Betrayed it! We must impeach him now,” she said. 

Progressive Caucus Co-Chairwoman Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOcasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Poll shows Biden leading Trump, tight House race in key Nebraska district MORE (D-Wash.) told the activists outside the Capitol that Trump’s behavior with Ukraine fits a “pattern” of illegal acts but that this has taken things to a new level of corruption.

“The president of the United States abused the power of his office, and he abused that power to ask a foreign president to investigate and come up with information, dirt, that would hurt his political opponent and would interfere with the 2020 election,” said Jayapal, a Judiciary Committee member. “And that is an absolute abuse of power. It is, in my mind, a high crime and misdemeanor.”