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All Michigan House Dems open to impeachment inquiry for Trump amid Ukraine controversy

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — All of Michigan's House Democrats are now embracing an impeachment inquiry amid mounting concerns that President Donald Trump urged the government of Ukraine to investigate a political rival.

Freshman Rep. Haley Stevens on Tuesday became the last of the state's seven Democrats in the U.S. House to back a potential impeachment inquiry, saying she had been "deeply alarmed" in recent days by reports of a "serious abuse of power" by Trump.

Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills

Her decision came after two other holdouts, Democratic Reps. Debbie Dingell of Dearborn and Elissa Slotkin of Holly, announced late Monday they had also shifted their position on impeachment for the Republican president. 

"The president is alleged to have used the power of his office to pressure a foreign head of state for his own personal political gain. Furthermore, the Director of National Intelligence continues to illegally withhold information about this matter from Congress," Stevens said. 

"If investigations confirm recent reports, these actions represent impeachable offences that threaten to undermine the integrity of our elections and jeopardize the balance of power within the federal government."

Sen. Gary Peters, who is up for re-election next year, is now the only Democrat in Michigan's delegation who has not explicitly expressed an openness to impeachment.

But Peters wants to know what happened with Ukraine and has called on the administration to release a whistleblower complaint related to Trump's communications with the new Ukrainian president. 

"Given the deeply troubling allegations before us, the administration must turn over the whistleblower complaint to Congress so we can evaluate the facts," tweeted Peters, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

"I support the House taking actions that they deem necessary to get the facts and meet their constitutional oversight responsibility."

As more of her caucus consolidated around impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday announced the House was moving ahead with an official impeachment inquiry. There was no indication if the House would vote to open a new inquiry.

"The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law," she said.  

Trump earlier Tuesday dismissed Democrats' growing support for an inquiry as a "witch hunt." 

"I think it's ridiculous. It's a witch hunt. I'm leading in the polls. They have no idea how they stop me. The only way they can try is through impeachment," Trump told reporters as he arrived at the United Nations.

"This has never happened to a president before. There's never been a thing like this before. It's nonsense."

Stevens said she was urging lawmakers on the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees to move quickly to independently investigate the matter "as part of ongoing efforts to investigate numerous unethical and potentially illegal acts by the president and his administration."

"I do not make this request lightly but rather out of a sober obligation to stand up for the rule of law and our national security," added Stevens, who last year won a suburban Detroit seat formerly held by retired Republican Rep. Dave Trott of Birmingham.

She was among several Democrats previously reluctant to back impeachment who changed their thinking in recent days as the Trump administration refused to turn over to the whistleblower complaint.

Trump in July spoke to the Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, by phone and urged him to probe unsubstantiated claims that former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter were involved in corrupt business activities in the former Soviet republic.

At the time of the call, Trump's administration was withholding over $390 million in aid to Ukraine, according to the Washington Post, which reported that Trump had told his chief of staff to freeze the aid package days before the July 25 call.

Trump on Monday continued to insist his actions were appropriate and denied allegations that he was holding back the aid package in an effort to pressure Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. 

The president on Tuesday changed his explanation for temporarily withholding the aid, insisting he wanted other countries to contribute. 

"I want other countries to put up money. I think it’s unfair that we put up the money," Trump said. 

The president later that said he had authorized the Wednesday release of an unredacted, declassified transcript of the July 25 call with Zelensky. 

Trump's release of the call transcript would allow lawmakers to "look at just the facts without any spin," said Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan's senior Republican in Congress.

"As I’ve been saying, the allegations are troubling, but I believe it’s important that we get all the information out in the open before we make any conclusions," Upton said. 

GOP Rep. Jack Bergman, who represents northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, said Democrats have been calling for Trump's impeachment since his election. 

"With each new 'bombshell' report comes a barrage of attacks levied at this administration, most of which have either been unfounded or grossly misstated," said Bergman, R-Watersmeet. 

"While I look at every issue individually, the newest push to impeach the president based on second-hand information from a phone call with Ukraine appears on the surface to just be more of the same.

"This is just another attempt at distracting the American people from the real truth, which is that the Democratic Party cares more about rhetoric than results."

More than half of House Democrats including four from Michigan previously backed impeachment: Reps. Dan Kildee of Flint Township, Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, Rashida Tlaib of Detroit and Andy Levin of Bloomfield Township, as well as Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing. 

"We’re in uncharted waters. Allegations that the president sought to withhold aid Ukraine needed until it produced damaging information about a political opponent are without a doubt grounds for impeachment," Levin said Tuesday.

"I echo my earlier call for an impeachment inquiry."

Trump critic Rep. Justin Amash, who represents the Grand Rapids area, also has urged Pelosi to launch impeachment proceedings. Amash left the GOP in July to become an independent.

Republican critics pounced on Stevens and Slotkin's shifts in position, saying Tuesday that backing impeachment in traditionally GOP districts that Trump won in 2016 would be difficult to defend at re-election time. 

“Haley Stevens and Elissa Slotkin made it perfectly clear their loyalties lie with impeachment-obsessed socialists who will stop at nothing to remove President Trump from office, no matter the cost,” said Calvin Moore, spokesman for the Congressional Leadership Fund that's aligned with the House Republican leadership.

“Congresswomen Stevens and Slotkin’s decision to back impeachment will be seared into the mind of every voter as a reminder that their irrational hatred of President Trump took priority over the will of the constituents who elected them to office in the first place.”

Slotkin on Monday joined six other House freshman with military or national security experience in advocating impeachment hearings if Trump used taxpayer money in an attempt to coerce Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

"To uphold and defend our Constitution, Congress must determine whether the president was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election," Slotkin and her colleagues wrote in the Washington Post. 

Slotkin urged Congress to consider using all powers available, "including the power of 'inherent contempt' and impeachment hearings, to address these new allegations."

Dingell late Monday called for a formal impeachment inquiry during an interview on MSNBC and in a subsequent tweet. 

"After recent revelations, I support an impeachment inquiry because we must follow the facts and hold the President accountable," Dingell wrote.

She had long argued that impeachment would "tear the country apart."

"This country is divided. We cannot be divided on the rule of law," Dingell wrote Monday. "As an elected official my oath is to protect national security and the Constitution." 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has been holding back party members from pursuing impeachment in part because it was considered a politically losing proposition based on public polling.

A May 28-30 statewide poll showed most Michigan voters opposed launching impeachment proceedings.