House Speaker Pelosi Announces Formal Impeachment Inquiry Into President Trump

Sep 24, 2019
Originally published on September 24, 2019 7:39 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has launched impeachment proceedings against President Trump. This sets the stage for what may become an epic battle between congressional Democrats and the president before the 2020 election. Pelosi had been reluctant to move toward impeachment, arguing it was more important to focus on beating Trump at the ballot box. She changed her position over the latest allegations involving the president's conversation with Ukraine's leader. Trump allegedly linked aid to Ukraine to that country's investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden. Here is Speaker Pelosi earlier this evening.

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NANCY PELOSI: This is a violation of the law. Shortly thereafter, press reports began to break of a phone call by the president of the United States calling upon a foreign power to intervene in his election. This is a breach of his constitutional responsibilities.

SHAPIRO: Joining us to discuss the latest is NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez, who is in New York with the president at the U.N. General Assembly.

Hi, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: How significant is it that Nancy Pelosi has changed her position and now says this is officially an impeachment inquiry?

ORDOÑEZ: This is very significant. House Speaker Pelosi has thrown off the gloves, and she has given up on her restrained approach. She's saying that Trump breached his constitutional responsibilities, and therefore, she's launching an official impeachment inquiry.

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PELOSI: I'm directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry. The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.

ORDOÑEZ: And as you pointed out, this is a significant change for her.

SHAPIRO: Well, explain why she was so resistant before and whether those concerns might still be valid. Or have they gone away?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, in many cases, they are valid. Nancy Pelosi was never a fan of going down this road, and she resisted it for months. She had been concerned about roughly 30 Democrats who come from swing districts that Trump won, and they are going to be vulnerable in 2020.

SHAPIRO: Although they were many of the people who, in the last 24 hours, changed their own position and said, we would like to see this begin.

ORDOÑEZ: Exactly, and that's how significant this has become, and that's the kind of pressure that she has been under from her caucus and also about concerns on this whistleblower complaint. I spoke with a senior administration official after Pelosi spoke, who said her announcement was premature. He said, why not wait for a few more facts, like the transcript, which Trump said would come out tomorrow? And he argued that this looks political and would only fire up the Republican base.

SHAPIRO: President Trump seems to love a fight. How is he responding to this?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, he responded almost immediately after Pelosi's remarks. He criticized Democrats for launching a, quote, "witch hunt" when he was trying to represent the country on the international stage at the United Nations General Assembly. He used a few terms that our listeners will remember from the Russia investigation. He called it presidential harassment. Trump also criticized Democrats for not waiting for the transcript. Earlier, Trump continued to defend himself while trying to deflect responsibility and pin it on former Vice President Joe Biden.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There was never any quid pro quo. The letter was beautiful. It was a perfect letter. It was unlike Biden, who, by the way - what he said was a horror.

ORDOÑEZ: But, you know, Pelosi said that didn't matter. She said it's wrong if the president is going to use his presidential power for political gain, regardless of whether there was, quote - or, pardon me - regardless of whether there was any, quote, "quid pro quo" or alleged threat to withhold funding.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez.

Thank you.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.