At the beginning of this week, it wasn’t at all clear that the United States was heading toward another impeachment investigation, 21 years after Republicans filed articles of impeachment against Democratic President Bill Clinton.
But by the end of this week, that’s exactly what was happening. Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry against President Trump after the release of an official transcript of a call between Trump and the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and a whistleblower complaint that detailed allegations of a pressure campaign from Trump and his allies toward Ukraine to help investigate Joe Biden.
At the center of the latest scandal threatening to take down President Donald Trump is $391 million in military aid that U.S president reportedly asked his staff to freeze before dropping the hold a week ago, under pressure from lawmakers.
On Wednesday, Washington was consumed with a July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
According to a memorandum of the call released by the White House, Zelenskiy asked to buy American-made Javelin anti-tank weapons, and Trump asked Zelenskiy to help him work with U.S. officials to investigate political rivals.
That call fueled a whistleblower’s complaint that has become central to the formal impeachment inquiry launched Tuesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but the call also highlights the vital role of U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
In June, the Pentagon announced plans to provide $250 million to Ukraine in security cooperation funds for additional training, equipment and advisory efforts to build the capacity of Ukraine’s armed forces. The U.S. State Department separately planned to provide $141 million in aid.
Broadly speaking, Democratic lawmakers see the president’s decision to temporarily hold both of the money as change of policy and politically motivated, and a few Republican lawmakers have publicly expressed cautious concern.
Not only does withholding that assistance potentially send a signal to Russia that the U.S. is not as concerned about Russian occupation of Ukraine, but the suddenness, just months before the funds were set to expire, jarred lawmakers and administration officials.
“The sharpness and abruptness with which this was frozen surprised many in government, and I think now we are seeing why,” said Mark Simakovsky, ex-NATO chief of staff for the Department of Defense, who’s convinced Trump was trying to exercise leverage over Zelenskiy for personal political gain.
Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei said Friday he supports the process playing out in the formal impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, but said he does not support impeaching the President.
“Let’s put it through the process and see what happens,” Amodei said on a call with reporters.
Amodei is the first House Republican to publicly show support for the inquiry since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement of the probe this week.