House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) has announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, after accusations swelled that Trump leveraged his political power to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden—the current Democratic frontrunner in the 2020 presidential election.
"The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution," she said.
As Reason's Peter Suderman has pointed out, while the allegations have yet to be fully substantiated, the mounting evidence appears to be unfavorable to the president. Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, flip-flopped on national television, initially denying, but then admitting to urging Zelensky to carry out the opposition research on Biden and his family. What's more, Trump reportedly brought up the request eight times on a July call with the Ukranian president. And just days prior to that conversation, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney withheld $400 million in military aid from the Ukraine at Trump's behest.
The president has no lawful power to refuse funds that Congress has allocated. Yet it seems that Trump may have moved to cut off support for Ukraine—illegally—in hopes that he could prompt that country to look into a political opponent.
Trump said Monday that he withheld the funds because of "corruption" in the country. He contradicted that messaging on Tuesday, telling the United Nations that he kept the money over frustrations with Europe's lack of monetary support.
Pelosi's about-face on impeachment represents a major shift for the congresswoman, who up until this point has maintained that such proceedings would have disastrous political consequences for Democrats. And she isn't the only one to have a change of heart. Many liberal lawmakers who once opposed the idea have reversed course in light of the new information, with those legislators now topping 150 out of 235. The House speaker will move to create a special committee to investigate the matter.
Trump has leveled similar accusations against Biden. He alleges that the former vice president refused to give Ukraine funding in order to help his son, Hunter, although it's worth noting that Trump has not yet been able to furnish proof to support that claim. In 2016, Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid if a prosecutor—who had been accused of corruption by multiple international agencies—was not removed from office. Some in Trump's circle allege that the former vice president did so in order to shield his son from investigations pertaining to his role on the board of a Ukrainian gas company that was mired in scandal.
At a press conference today, Biden criticized the president and accused him of abusing his office for personal gain. "We have a president who believes there is no limit to his power," Biden said. "We have a president who believes he can do anything and get away with it. We have a president who believes he is above the law."