United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday initiated impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. Trump has been accused of violating the Constitution by seeking help from a foreign leader to damage a political opponent.
The move comes after Trump’s acknowledgement that he urged Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden, a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination who holds a wide lead over Trump according to polls.
"The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable facts of the president's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of his national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections," said Pelosi.
Trump, meanwhile tweeted "PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!" in response. The US President is currently in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly with world leaders. According to local media reports, Trump believes that impeachment led by the opposition party will bolster rather than diminish his political support.
In a phone call earlier this year, Trump spoke to the Ukrainian President and asked for help investigating former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter. In the days preceding the call, the US President reportedly ordered advisers to freeze USD 400 million in military aid for Ukraine, with many speculating that he was using this as leverage for information on the Bidens. Trump has denied this but admitted that he blocked the funds.
The phone call between Trump and the Ukraine President is part of a whistleblower's complaint, though the rest of the report has been blocked by the administration on grounds of presidential privilege. Trump has authorised the release of a transcript of the call, which is to be made public Wednesday.
"You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call," Trump said.
Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration's diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Trump has reportedly sought to implicate Biden and his son in corruption charges despite no evidence of wrongdoing by either.
Impeachment has only occurred twice in US history - against Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Neither was removed from office. President Richard M. Nixon resigned in 1974 after the House initiated impeachment proceedings but before an official vote.