Democrats see whistleblower report as smoking gun

For months, President TrumpDonald John TrumpMitt Romney invokes late father during the Civil Rights Movement amid protests White House wanted to deploy 10,000 troops to control protests: reports Zuckerberg, Chan-funded scientists pen 'letter of concern' over Trump, misinformation 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 ButterfieldMourners, family and lawmakers in North Carolina gather to pay respects to George Floyd Democrats introduce coronavirus-focused privacy legislation Hillicon Valley: Experts raise security concerns about online voting | Musk finds supporter in Trump | Officials warn that Chinese hackers targeting COVID-19 research groups 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.” 

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Rep. Judy ChuJudy May ChuMinority caucuses call for quick action on police reform House Democrats press Treasury on debit cards used for coronavirus relief payments Democrats blast CDC report on minorities and COVID-19 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 BidenBiden's right, we need policing reform now - the House should quickly take up his call to action Ohio is suddenly a 2020 battleground Biden wins Guam presidential primary 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 PelosiLiberals: Which 'science' are we supposed to believe? Pompeo blasts China: 'Callous attempts to exploit George Floyd's tragic death' NRCC turns up heat on vulnerable Democrats over Omar's call to abolish police 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 SchiffSchiff uses Tiananmen anniversary to condemn Trump's response to protests Flynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation 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 KildeePelosi makes fans as Democrat who gets under Trump's skin House to consider amendment blocking warrantless web browsing surveillance Bipartisan bill aims to help smallest businesses weather the coronavirus crisis MORE (D-Mich.). “And he can't even deny it; now he just has to say it's OK.”

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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 KindCoronavirus culture war over reopening economy hits Capitol Hill How the GOP hopes to overcome steep odds in House battle The Hill's Campaign Report: 200 days to Election Day 2020 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 LeeMinority caucuses call for quick action on police reform Democrats call for Congress to take action following death of George Floyd Black Caucus member unveils bill to create commission addressing legacy of slavery 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 JayapalBiden's right, we need policing reform now - the House should quickly take up his call to action Defense bill turns into proxy battle over Floyd protests Top progressive lawmaker unveils bill requiring national police training standards 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.”