WASHINGTON—Democrats in and out of Congress Wednesday reacted to the White House release of the transcript of President Donald Trump’s July 25 call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky with the same impeachment demands they made before the document became public.
The transcript provides no evidence of Trump making a promise to Zelensky, as a “whistleblower” had claimed, or of there being any quid pro quo in return for reopening an investigation into possible corruption by Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters a few minutes after the transcript was released that, while she had not yet read it, she believed “no one is above the law, not even the president. The fact is the president of the United States in a breach of constitutional responsibilities, asked the head of a foreign government for help in his political campaign at the expense of our national security.”
Pelosi added that during the call to Zelensky Trump “undermined the integrity of the election. That cannot stand, he will be held accountable.”
The day before at a dramatically convened afternoon news conference, Pelosi announced an “impeachment inquiry” prompted in part by the Trump call.
“Today, I am announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry … The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law … actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution,” she said.
“This week, the president has admitted to asking the president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically. The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”
The impeachment effort will not actually become official until it is approved by a majority of the House of Representatives in a vote that Pelosi has not scheduled.
Minutes after Pelosi spoke Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said release of the Ukraine call transcript was not sufficient to end the controversy ignited a week ago.
The controversy began when the Washington Post reported a whistle blower claimed Trump made a “promise” to a Ukraine official in return for their investigating actions of former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
When the transcript released Wednesday failed to provide unimpeachable evidence of Trump thus promising Zelensky, Schumer said the Department of Justice (DOJ) must make public the “complete, un-redacted whistleblower complaint without further delay.”
Schumer was referring to the complaint filed with the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community as reported by the Sept. 18 Post story.
Schumer followed what has become a common practice in referring to this person as a “whistleblower,” even though that term has a specific definition in the law that does not yet appear to apply to the controversy over Trump’s call to Zelensky.
The whistle-blower reportedly was not present with Trump during the telephone call, but learned of it from somebody else.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is again seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, tweeted shortly after the transcript’s release, saying “Donald Trump is the most corrupt president in the modern history of this country.”
Other Democrats reacted similarly, often with hordes of reporters following them. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyter (D-Md.), for example, called the transcript “very damning” after reading it.
Similarly, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Trump “clearly pressured the Ukraine president to commence an investigation into the Biden family to dig up political dirt in order to bolster the president’s electoral prospects in 2020. That is textbook abuse of power, and the transcripts have become Exhibit A in that regard.”
House Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said the transcript shows “the president in a shake-down of a foreign leader.”
And House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Attorney General William Barr, who Trump mentioned to Zelensky, must as a result “recuse himself until we get to the bottom of this matter.”
For his part, Trump said the transcript proved “it was a nothing call.”