New York, Sep 26 (IANS) After US President Donald Trump released an account of his conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zalensky about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, support built up for his impeachment by the House of Representatives.
As of Wednesday night 218 Representatives, all Democrats except for an Independent, have come out in support of impeachment assuring its passage in the 435-member legislature.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday that the Democrats would launch the impeachment and demanded that Trump hand over to Congress the transcript of the conversation and the whistleblower complaint filed by a government employee alleging that Trump had sought illegal favours during the conversation.
Trump complied and sent to Congress the account of the phone call put together from notes and the whistleblower’s complaint.
In the account of the calls he is seen as asking Zalensky to investigate the dealings of Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a gas company in Ukraine.
A Ukrainian prosecutor looking into allegations against the company was removed by Ukrainian authorities at Biden’s request.
Although some Democrats have been saying from Day One that Trump should be impeached, the Ukraine affair gives them focus.
“This has clarity and understanding in the eyes of the American people,” Pelosi reportedly has told fellow-Democrats about it being seen as an attempt to undermine a political rival with foreign help.
Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote to his supporters, “President Trump has crossed the line of decency many times, but this latest instance might be the most worrying yet.”
At his news conference in New York on Wednesday, Trump whose moods ranged from rage to self-pity called the impeachment proposal a “joke”.
Earlier allegations that Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians in influencing the 2016 elections did not pan out because an inquiry by a special counsel found no evidence of it.
Trump said, “And the witch hunt continues, but they’re getting hit hard in this witch hunt, because when they look at the information, it’s a joke. Impeachment? For that? When you have a wonderful meeting, or you have a wonderful phone conversation?”
The impeachment is basically the House investigating allegations and framing charges in what is called Articles of Impeachment and sending it to the Senate to hold a trial and issue a verdict.
The impeachment process will have high drama — but will be just that because the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to vote to unseat Trump.
Some Democrats had persisted that Pelosi start impeachment proceedings on charges of obstructing the inquiry, but the Ukraine issue has more clarity.
L’affaire Ukraine neatly segues from earlier allegation about the Russians as it is being presented as another instance of Trump getting a foreign power, Ukraine, to help his election bid by investigating a potential rival.
Biden has been the front-runner for the Democratic Party nomination to run against Trump in next year’s election.
However, Biden has slipped behind Senator Eliabeth Warren, getting only 25 per cent support to her 27 percent in the latest national poll by Quinnipiac.
Zelensky was asked by a reporter before he and Trump held talks on Wednesday if he had felt pressured by Trump in the phone call to investigate the Bidens.
Zelensky said, “It was normal. We spoke about many things. And I — so I think, and you read it (in the phone call account), that nobody pushed — pushed me.”
He said that he did not want to be drawn into the US elections.
Trump said at his news conference that Biden should be investigated to see if he had a role in ending the probe into his son’s company.
He added, “I demand transparency from Democrats who went to Ukraine and attempted to force the new President” about the call.
Pelosi has not yet set a date for the impeachment proceedings, which could stretch into the next year.
The whistleblower, who is said to be an intelligence staffer, filed a complaint with authorities, who did not forward it to Congress.
The whistleblower did not listen in on the call but heard about it second hand.
Biden’s reputation is also at stake merely from airing the fact that his son Hunter, who had a cocaine arrest record and was removed from the Navy Reserve because of drug use, became a millionaire from business deals in China and Ukraine.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @arulouis)