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Impeachment calls grow as Trump defends withholding Ukraine aid

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally announced the beginning of an impeachment inquiry Tuesday after a whistleblower alleged that the president tried to force a foreign leader to aid his reelection. At the United Nations, Trump faced questions about his own actions, and he seemed to confirm and defend the fact that he withheld hundreds of millions of dollars from Ukraine. Lisa Desjardins reports.

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  • William Brangham:

    Questions of impeachment are growing tonight around President Trump.

    The speaker of the House says the House is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. That's after a whistle-blower alleged that the president tried to force a foreign leader to aid his reelection.

    In turn, the president says he will release the record of a critical phone call.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    A dizzying day of developments.

    At the Capitol late this afternoon, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi went further than ever on formally beginning impeachment.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the 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 moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Meanwhile, at the United Nations, the president arrived this morning to talk about U.S. policy, but immediately faced questions about his own actions and whether he pressured Ukraine to investigate the Biden family.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I think it's ridiculous. It's a witch-hunt.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    He seemed to confirm and defend the fact that he withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for Ukraine recently.

  • President Donald Trump:

    My complaint has always been — and I would withhold again, and I'll continue to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine, because they're not doing it.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The Washington Post and others reported the president froze nearly $400 million in aid for Ukraine this summer, one week before a phone call with newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

    It is still not clear if the withheld money came up on that call, but, this afternoon, Mr. Trump announced he has ordered the release, tomorrow, of the complete and unredacted transcript of his conversation.

    In turn, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff said the whistle-blower wants to testify before the committee as early as this week.

    Meanwhile, calls for impeachment grew.

  • Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.:

    I have been patient while we tried every other path and used every other tool. I believe, I truly believe the time to begin impeachment proceedings against this president has come.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It was a remarkable 24 hours for Democrats, starting with a cannon blast in The Washington Post from seven freshman Democrats, all with military and national security backgrounds.

    All sit in vulnerable districts and had previously been hesitant to call for impeachment.

  • Now they write:

    "If the allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense. We do not arrive at this conclusion lightly."

    On the campaign trail in Delaware today, former Vice President Joe Biden pushed back against any allegations of wrongdoing.

  • Joseph Biden:

    This president would attack me and anyone else who he thought would be a threat to his winning again. Well, that's what he does. That's what he's always done.

    And know that, even though every reputable publication that has looked at the charge that has been made against me, and they found them baseless and untrue and without merit, that's not about to stop him.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Republicans, meanwhile, are largely urging restraint.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:

    What we have here is an allegation related to Ukrainian aid by a whistle-blower. That's about all we know now.

    I'm not going to address all of these various hypotheticals that have been aired out about what may or may not have happen in the House. And I think all of that is quite premature.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But even within the president's own party, concern is brewing. Louisiana Senator John Kennedy said both the Bidens and the president's phone calls should be investigated.

  • Sen. John Kennedy, R-La.:

    I can tell you that — what the American people are saying. They're saying, you know what? We'd like to know more about the conversation between the president and President Zelensky. But we'd also like to know what this business about Hunter Biden is.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    President Trump meets with the Ukrainian president tomorrow, as House Democrats press forward with an impeachment resolution.

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