Congress should begin impeachment proceedings to investigate President Donald Trump after he asked a foreign government to interfere with Joe Biden's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minnesota, said Monday.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that no one is above the law — particularly our elected leaders," Craig, whose district includes Scott County, said in a written statement.
"It is clear that the sitting president of the United States placed his own personal interests above the national security of the United States," she said. "And when there is an abuse of power of this magnitude, it is our responsibility to stand up for what is right. This is why I am calling to open impeachment proceedings — immediately, fairly, and impartially.”
The Associated Press, Washington Post and other news outlets in recent days reported that Trump prodded Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son and possibly used a package of hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid as leverage to get his way. They cited an unnamed whistleblower and other sources.
Trump, a Republican, admitted over the weekend he recently discussed the Bidens with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, also has said he pushed Ukraine to look into what he claimed was corruption among the Bidens.
On Monday Trump denied bringing up the aid money, according to The New York Times. On Tuesday, he told reporters at the United Nations General Assembly he withheld the military aid because other countries should contribute more.
An impeachment inquiry is just the start of a lengthy process that could end with Trump's removal from office. It would begin an investigation in the Democrat-controlled House, which would hold hearings and eventually vote on whether to charge the president with wrongdoing, such as misusing his elected position for personal gain.
If Trump were charged, the Republican-controlled Senate would then vote on whether he's guilty or innocent.
U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, another Minnesota Democrat, also supported impeachment if the Ukraine "if the reports are corroborated," he said Monday. Inviting foreign interference, he said, is "corrupt at best, treasonous at worst."
Other members of Minnesota's delegation to Congress are split on the impeachment question, according to the Star Tribune. Democrat leaders in the House have been reluctant to formally begin the process, noting it could fail in the Senate.
Rick Olson, a Prior Lake Republican who recently announced he would challenge Craig for her seat in next year's election, said the allegations are serious enough to ask questions and the president should release a transcript of his call with the Ukrainian president to clear up the matter.
"It really gets down to whether there’s a quid pro quo between the investigation and the military aid," Olson said Tuesday morning. As for impeachment, he added, "I think I’m with (Nancy) Pelosi that it’s premature and let the voters decide."
The Ukraine accusations are among the latest in a long line of accusations and ongoing investigations against Trump and his administration of corruption. Several Democrats have pointed to Trump hotels and other properties, which have been frequently visited by foreign officials, lobbying groups and the U.S. vice president and attorney general.
The accusations also come months after U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators concluded Russia substantially interfered in the 2016 presidential election, including by stealing Democrat emails and starting fake social media pages and groups to spread misinformation.
"We must safeguard our electoral process and our very democracy from outside threats," Craig said Monday. "For this reason, the current investigations into corruption must continue."
Hunter Biden was a paid board member of a gas company active in Ukraine while his father was vice president under President Barack Obama, according to the AP. The elder Biden at one point pushed Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, who had previously investigated the company's owner.
Trump and his allies have pointed to that fact as evidence of corruption. But there's no public evidence of any wrongdoing, and many in Ukraine and elsewhere saw the former prosecutor there as soft on corruption, the AP reported.
Craig's statement Monday went further than she had two days before at a Prior Lake town hall. She said then that House committees were doing important investigations into the Ukraine question and others, and she wanted to see more of what they found before jumping in on impeachment.
"This is one of the most important decisions any member of Congress will ever make," Craig said at the time.