What the Massachusetts delegation is saying about impeaching Donald Trump and his Ukraine phone call

For the first time, they all agree: "It is time that President Trump be held accountable for his actions."

House Ways and Means committee Chairman Richard Neal, of Mass., listens to a reporter's question as House democrats arrive for a caucus meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Rep. Richard Neal listens to a reporter's question as House Democrats arrive for a caucus meeting Tuesday. –Alex Brandon / AP

An official impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s alleged misconduct is now, in the words of one House Democrat, “full steam ahead.” And for the first time, the Massachusetts congressional delegation is now entirely on board.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi called for the probe Tuesday following revelations that Trump may have used his office to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating his political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden. The July call with Zelensky came just a week after Trump reportedly ordered staffers to hold back U.S. military assistance to Ukraine, raising concerns the president was using the aid as leverage (the funds were withheld until Sept. 11, two days after Congress became aware of a whistleblower complaint over Trump’s phone call).

“The tipping point is clear; it was national security — full stop,” Rep. Katherine Clark said in an interview Wednesday morning on MSNBC, accusing Trump of “putting his political gain over the country.”

“What happened yesterday was Congress, the House Democrats, stood together and said ‘We still not stand for this. We will use the constitutional tools that we have to check a reckless president,” said the Melrose Democrat, who is the party’s sixth-highest ranking House member and a Pelosi ally.

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Clark first called for an impeachment inquiry in July.

Pelosi’s announcement Tuesday comes after months, if not years, of pressure from some fellow Democratic lawmakers for the House to formally investigate an array of possible impeachable offenses by the Republican president. Six congressional committees have already been investigating alleged misconduct by Trump, but Clark said the content of the newly revealed call with Zelensky infused the process with more “urgency.”

A memo detailing the phone call released Wednesday by the White House showed Trump asking for Zelensky’s help investigating unsubstantiated allegations of corruption against Biden, shortly after touting the United States’ support for Ukraine. Trump repeatedly has denied that there was any “quid pro quo,” but Democrats are unconvinced (the memo notes that it “is not a verbatim transcript” of the discussion).

Rep. Richard Neal, the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was the final holdout in the Bay State delegation in calling for impeachment proceedings. But in a statement Tuesday, the Springfield congressman said he would “strongly back” Pelosi’s move.

“The extraordinary reports this week that President Trump encouraged the Ukrainian president to investigate the son of Vice President Joe Biden, and withheld nearly $400 million in military aid in the process, has taken us to a new stage,” Neal said. “It is time that President Trump be held accountable for his actions.”

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Rep. Stephen Lynch, a South Boston Democrat who had also refrained from backing impeachment proceedings, also supported Pelosi’s decision following the disclosure of Trump’s call with Zelensky, which he said “certainly, on its face, satisfies the high crimes and misdemeanors standard in Article II of the Constitution.”

“This was a direct attack on the Constitution, what the president did with Ukraine,” Lynch said in an interview Tuesday on WCVB. “This is a situation in which the president basically admitted to sufficient facts that he approached the president of Ukraine and asked for a foreign government’s help to take down a political opponent in a democratic election here in the United States.”

Lynch noted that Trump had acknowledged, prior to the release of the memo on his call with Zelensky, pushing the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden and son Hunter — who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice president — for supposed wrongdoing that hasn’t held up to scrutiny. The elder Biden is now one of the leading candidates for Democratic presidential nomination next year.

“[Trump] has supplied us with sufficient facts, as I say,” Lynch said. “We’re not making this up.”

According to The Boston Globe, Neal and Lynch were among the nearly three-dozen House Democrats who joined the ranks of those supporting an inquiry Tuesday, bringing the total number in favor of impeachment to more than 170.

Other members of the Massachusetts delegation, who had long called for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings, reemphasized their position Tuesday.

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Rep. Seth Moulton, who first voted for Trump’s impeachment in October 2017, characterized Trump’s call with Zelensky as an attempted “bribe … to get the upper hand in the 2020 election.”

“That fits the definition of an impeachable offense in every sense,” Moulton said in a statement. “Congress must now hold President Trump accountable, and if members of his administration stall these proceedings, Congress should hold them in contempt.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was the first Democratic presidential candidate in the 2020 field to call for Trump’s impeachment back in April, called the “transcript” released Wednesday a “smoking gun,” even if it didn’t provide a verbatim recollection of the discussion between Trump and Zelensky.

“If this is the version of events the president’s team thinks is most favorable, he is in very deep jeopardy,” Warren tweeted Wednesday morning. “We need to see the full whistleblower complaint and the administration needs to follow the law. Now.”

In a previous tweet Tuesday, the Massachusetts senator called the process “overdue.”

Sen. Ed Markey, who has also supported impeachment since July, echoed his Senate companion’s sentiment about the “so-called transcript” Wednesday, which he claimed doesn’t tell “even close to the whole story” and yes is still “incriminating.”

Rep. Joe Kennedy, who is running for Markey’s seat in next year’s Democratic primary election for Senate, said Wednesday that Trump  “should have been impeached months ago” and called for the release of the whistleblower’s complaint, in addition to the White House memo on the call.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who made calling for impeachment a plank of her successful primary campaign last year, also suggested the memo wasn’t providing the full story.

In a series of tweets Tuesday, Rep. Bill Keating laid out a number of unanswered questions around Trump’s interactions regarding the Ukrainian government and called for a “formal impeachment inquiry.” The Bourne Democrat — who first called for an impeachment inquiry last month over a number different revelations from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report earlier this year — said the Ukraine phone call was yet another troubling action.

“The President has acted to coerce a foreign power to undercut our country’s national security and democracy, an action declared to be an ‘urgent matter’ by the Inspector General,” Keating said in a statement. “The Constitution and our rule of law are at stake right now. We have a Constitutional obligation as a Congress to protect our country.”

Reps. Jim McGovern and Lori Trahan, who called for an impeachment inquiry in May and July, respectively, also voiced their support for Pelosi’s decision Tuesday.

“We are a nation of laws — period — not just when it is convenient for President Trump,” McGovern, who is the chairman of the House Rules Committee, said, introducing a resolution calling for the release of the whistleblower complaint.

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