House Speaker Pelosi Says She Now Supports An Official Impeachment Inquiry
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
This afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she now supports an official impeachment inquiry after a flood of House Democrats took the same position. The White House responded this evening by saying that Democrats, quote, "have destroyed any chances of legislative progress for the people of this country by continuing to focus all of their energy on partisan political attacks." Pelosi's shift comes after reports that President Trump may have pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate political rival Joe Biden. Trump says he will release the transcript of that call with Ukraine's leader tomorrow. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis joins us now with the latest on this breaking story.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.
SHAPIRO: The speaker had been publicly opposed to impeachment until now. She said there needed to be bipartisan support. She said there needed to be public support. What made this the tipping point?
DAVIS: You're right that this is a major moment, and it could be a defining moment. And the defining moment for Nancy Pelosi when it comes to impeachment is - she said that this crossed a line when it comes to the question of national security and the conduct of the president, meeting her threshold for what could be an impeachable offense. She spoke publicly about her decision about an hour ago, and this is what she said.
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NANCY PELOSI: The actions of the Trump presidency revealed 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. Therefore, today I'm announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.
DAVIS: She says that she will be directing the six committees that are already looking at any number of investigations into the president to consider that one big umbrella of an impeachment inquiry. We should, of course, note that judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler has already long maintained that what his committee is doing right now is considered an official impeachment inquiry.
SHAPIRO: So this raises the question - as significant as this announcement appears, these six committees are already looking into the president. One of the committees has already called it an impeachment investigation. What's actually changed here?
DAVIS: It is, in some ways, just a rhetorical shift, and it's the speaker embracing the status quo, which was - now a majority of Democrats support an impeachment inquiry. She was not one of them. Now she is. Now, that is hugely important - hugely important - because you cannot bring articles of impeachment to the floor without the speaker's support, and we weren't there. We're still not there, but as of today, it's the first time that Pelosi's saying we could get there.
From a practical standpoint, you're right. Not that much changes. The committees are moving full steam ahead, as they already have been. Democrats did come out of the meeting. We talked to Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who's been a big advocate for impeachment already, saying what's different is there is a new sense of urgency and a new sense of party unity, that an impeachment inquiry is the right thing to do.
SHAPIRO: Hearings can take time. And the administration has been stonewalling congressional Democrats on these hearings, so what are the actual next steps right now?
DAVIS: Well, the speaker and the House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had already announced earlier today that tomorrow, the House will vote on a resolution condemning the administration for fighting efforts to turn over the whistleblower complaint in question over to Congress as they maintain that the law requires. As you noted, the president said he will release the transcript tomorrow, so the details of that conversation could be much more - sort of public spotlight could be shined on that tomorrow. House intelligence chairman Adam Schiff says - and again reiterated this afternoon - that they are in communication with the whistleblower's lawyer, that they could hear from the whistleblower as early as this week.
Across the Capitol today, the Senate also unanimously agreed to call for that whistleblower complaint to be turned over to the Senate Intelligence Committee so they could review it in private and assess the information in it. I think the big-picture point here is that this is a very fast-moving story, and we could know soon how realistic impeachment proceedings really are.
SHAPIRO: Of course, the Senate is controlled by Republicans. In our last 30 seconds, where are they on all of this?
DAVIS: They are largely still behind the president, although I should note this is one of the first times you've heard some Republican voices supporting, at least, the investigation, although I would note with caution that a lot of Republicans say they support releasing the transcript and they support having the whistleblower complaint turned over because they maintain it will back up what the president says and that he has done nothing wrong and has committed no crime.
SHAPIRO: NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis, thank you.
DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.