Stories

"Locked and loaded": Washington braces for impeachment battle

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A president who has always been touchy about his legitimacy is now the fourth American president to face the machinery of impeachment.

Why it matters: Thirteen months out from a presidential election, Congress and the commander-in-chief of a divided nation are formally at war.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced "an official impeachment inquiry" at 5pm Tuesday, with the broadcast networks breaking in across the country:

"The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law. Getting back to our founders in the darkest days of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote, 'The times have found us.' The times found them to fight for and establish our democracy. The times have found us today."
  • With President Trump tweeting peevishly from New York, where he spoke in the morning to the UN General Assembly, Pelosi pointed to a July phone call in which the president is said to have pressed the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, which could have helped Trump in 2020.

Being there: Around 120 reporters crowded into the hallways in the Capitol basement, waiting for the House Democratic Caucus to disperse from the meeting where Pelosi announced her support for an impeachment inquiry.

  • At the Capitol, House Democrats were relieved, rejuvenated and even overjoyed that for the first time since Pelosi took the gavel in January, the caucus was unified on Trump.
  • "This puts the party in a new direction," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the star of the freshman class. "The power behind that, and the weight behind that adds an urgency and an expeditiousness to the investigations that I don’t believe we would’ve seen."

On the Republican side, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said: "A lot of my colleagues are excited about how crazy they think it is. I talked to a lot of people who were like: 'Wow, unbelievable.' I think both sides are getting locked and loaded to do some battle here."

What to watch: Today, the House will vote on a resolution demanding that Trump release the whistleblower complaint regarding the president and Ukraine.

  • Thursday, acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire will testify in front of the House Intelligence Committee.
  • House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said the whistleblower could testify before Congress as soon as this week.

Go deeper: How an impeachment inquiry works

Never miss a major politics story

Get breaking news alerts sent directly to your inbox