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Speaker Nancy Pelosi orders impeachment probe: 'No one is above the law' she says of Trump

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump on Tuesday, acquiescing to mounting pressure from fellow Democrats and plunging a deeply divided nation into an election year clash between Congress and the commander in chief.

The probe centers on whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from a foreign government for his reelection. Pelosi said such actions would mark a "betrayal of his oath of office" and declared: "No one is above the law."

Pelosi's brief statement capped a frenetic stretch on Capitol Hill, as details of a classified whistleblower complaint about Trump burst into the open and momentum shifted swiftly toward an impeachment probe. The charge was led by several moderate Democratic lawmakers from political swing districts, many of them with national security backgrounds and serving in Congress for the first time.

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., reads a statement announcing a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

After more than two and one-half years of sharp Democratic criticism of Trump, the formal impeachment quest sets up the party's most urgent and consequential confrontation with a president who thrives on combat — and injects deep uncertainty in the 2020 White House race. Trump has all but dared Democrats to take this step, confident that the specter of impeachment led by the opposition party would bolster his political support

Trump, who was meeting with world leaders at the United Nations, previewed his defense in an all-caps tweet: "PRESIDENTIAL HARRASSMENT!"

Pelosi had barely finished speaking as he began a mini-blizzard of tweets assailing her announcement.

At issue are Trump's actions with Ukraine. In a summer phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, he is said to have asked for help investigating Democrat Joe Biden and his son Hunter. In the days before the call, Trump ordered advisers to freeze $400 million in military aid for Ukraine — prompting speculation that he was holding out the money as leverage for information on the Bidens. Trump has denied that charge, but acknowledged he blocked the funds.

Impeachment 101: How Congress could remove the president, explained

Ahead of Pelosi's announcement, Trump authorized the release of a transcript of his call with Ukraine's president, predicting it would show no evidence of wrongdoing. The transcript is to be made public on Wednesday.

"You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call," Trump said.

Trump has sought to implicate Biden and his son in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration's diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.

While the possibility of impeachment has hung over Trump for many months, the likelihood of a probe had faded after special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation ended without a clear directive for lawmakers. Democratic House committees launched new inquiries into Trump's businesses and a variety of administration scandals, but all seemed likely to drag on for months.

But details of Trump's dealings with Ukraine prompted Democrats to quickly shift course. By the time Pelosi addressed the nation on Tuesday, about two-thirds of House Democrats had announced moving toward impeachment probes.

After Pelosi's Tuesday announcement, the president and his campaign team quickly released a series of tweets attacking Democrats, including a video of presidential critics like the speaker and Rep. Ilhan Omar discussing impeachment. It concluded with a message for the Trump faithful: "While Democrats 'Sole Focus' is fighting Trump, President Trump is fighting for you."

Pelosi has for months resisted calls for impeachment from her restive caucus, warning that it would backfire against the party unless there was a groundswell of public support. That groundswell hasn't occurred, but Pelosi suggested in comments earlier Tuesday that this new episode — examining whether a president abused his power for personal political gain — would be easier to explain to Americans than some of the issues that arose during the Mueller investigation and other congressional probes.

While Pelosi's announcement adds weight to the work being done on the oversight committees, the next steps are likely to resemble the past several months of hearings and legal battles — except with the possibility of actual impeachment votes.

On Wednesday, the House is expected to consider a symbolic but still notable resolution insisting the Trump administration turn over to Congress the whistleblower's complaint. The Senate, in a rare bipartisan moment, approved a similar resolution Tuesday.

The lawyer for the whistleblower, who is still anonymous, released a statement saying he had asked Trump's director of national intelligence to turn over the complaint to House committees and asking guidance to permit the whistleblower to meet with lawmakers.

Pelosi suggested that this new episode — examining whether a president abused his power for personal political gain — would be easier to explain to Americans than some of the issues that arose during the Mueller investigation and other congressional probes.

The speaker put the matter in stark terms on Tuesday: "The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable facts of the president's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of his national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections."

Who are the key figures in the impeachment inquiry and whistleblower complaint?

National
'Wait for facts': GOP representatives from Nebraska, Iowa say launch of impeachment inquiry is rash

WASHINGTON — Democrats on Tuesday characterized the launch of a formal impeachment inquiry as a search for truth and accountability, while Republicans blasted the move as a rush to judgment.

The inquiry comes in the wake of a whistleblower’s complaint and allegations that President Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian leaders to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., released a sharply worded statement charging the other side with letting “their personal hate for the president and hyper-partisanship cloud their judgement” in proceeding with the inquiry.

“Overturning the will of the American people requires evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, and that has not happened,” Bacon said. “The rashness to pronounce guilt without facts is shameful and does not serve the interest of the nation.”

Across the river — and across the aisle — Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, had a markedly different take.

Axne said in a press release that using the Oval Office to pressure a foreign leader into investigating a political opponent is a clear abuse of power.

“Beyond an abuse of power, allegations that the president threatened to leverage U.S. taxpayer dollars to extort a foreign government, if true, constitute an unequivocal violation of our federal laws and the U.S. Constitution I swore to defend,” Axne said.

Both Bacon and Axne represent swing districts crucial to their respective parties’ 2020 prospects.

In a World-Herald interview, Bacon said House Democrats are making a mistake going down this road and cited poll numbers that show most Americans don’t favor impeachment.

“I have not seen evidence that the citizens of our country nor our district want an impeachment,” Bacon said.

Bacon welcomed Trump’s statement that he will release a transcript of his call with the Ukrainians.

“I personally do not like, in principle, going to another country, digging dirt on your opponent,” Bacon said. “I totally get that. I think it’s not right. But I think we should see the transcript before we load and shoot.”

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Other Republicans from were also urging patience.

“I think we need to continue to wait for facts before we jump from one story to another,” Sen. Deb Fischer told The World-Herald.

Reps. Adrian Smith and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry each provided statements that noted the impending release of the transcript.

“This will help clarify where things stand, instead of another round of blaring head-banging music out of Congress,” Fortenberry said.

Sen. Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement saying he’s glad the president has agreed to release the unredacted transcript.

“The president should also provide all additional relevant materials to the committee,” Sasse said. “At a time when foreign powers work every day to exploit our divisions, it’s important for public trust that Americans know what did and did not happen here. We need shared facts.”

Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa also invoked the Senate Intelligence Committee and said it is doing its job in a bipartisan manner that she supports.

“Shame on the House Democrats if they use impeachment as an excuse to play politics instead of focusing on issues that affect the livelihoods of Iowans across our state,” Ernst said.

Iowa’s senior senator, Chuck Grassley, said that the release of the full phone call transcript will be an extraordinary level of White House transparency and that it’s unfortunate Democrats haven’t waited to review the transcript.

Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb said the impeachment inquiry is required given the whistleblower complaint and Trump’s own statements about welcoming political dirt from foreign countries.

“This is not something that we’re making assumptions about,” Kleeb said. “We’re going off of President Trump’s own behavior and words.”

Meet the Nebraska state senators

Money
Applied Underwriters celebrates work on Heartwood Preserve development, touts natural features

More streets have been laid. More steel framing is rising. Saturday, hundreds of Applied Underwriters employees each planted a tree.

And on Tuesday, the corporate driver behind the 500-acre Heartwood Preserve redevelopment visited Omaha to officially dedicate the mixed-use project announced in 2016.

“Welcome to Omaha’s big new family room,” Steve Menzies, founder of the California-based Applied Underwriters, told a few dozen guests, including Mayor Jean Stothert and other city and business officials. He said it is where people “will work, play, relax, study and communicate with each other.”

Menzies described the project southwest of 144th Street and West Dodge Road as a strategic investment by his company in a city where the company’s key operations and most of Applied workers are based.

More than 500 local Applied employees, currently in three different buildings, are expected to move into their new office campus in early 2022.

Menzies highlighted the varied residential, commercial and recreational uses to be offered at the tract that previously was green space and farmland.

MEYER STUDIO LAND ARCHITECTS  

A rendering of Heartwood Preserve, planned for southwest of 144th Street and West Dodge Road, with at least 10,000 new trees, green space and hiking and biking trails.

Tuesday’s gathering also featured speakers, including landscape architect David Meyer. He talked about the mindful way developers set out to dot the area with natural prairie grasses, trees, trails, parks, water features — places to contemplate and celebrate.

“There will be wonderful places to experience the seasons,” Meyer said.

Menzies said his aim, while transforming the site into an urban residential and commercial hub, was to try to conserve the beauty and respect the land. Thus the name: Heartwood Preserve.

Early on, the overall redevelopment was referred to as West Farm, a nod to Boys Town’s former use of the land.

The project, stretching from Dodge south past Pacific Street and from 144th Street to 153rd Street, will have about 80 acres of green space, eight miles of bike paths and open trails, and more than 10,000 newly planted trees, company officials said.

In addition, the project is to include hotel rooms, retailers, houses, apartments, senior living and H&H Automotive dealerships. Office buildings are to be built for other companies, including already announced projects for Valmont Industries and Carson Group.

STUDIOS ARCHITECTS 

The Applied Underwriters building in Heartwood Preserve will initially house 500 employees and is designed to accommodate a wing and hundreds more employees.

The Applied campus is to cover about 50 acres south of Pacific Street. The first phase will be about 260,000 square feet and house more than 500 employees. But there will be room at the site for another wing and hundreds more employees, said Bart Emanuel, director of development and construction at Applied, a workers’ compensation insurer. Omaha’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is in the process of selling its interest in Applied Underwriters.

Applied’s facility will have 1,048 underground parking stalls and feature wide-open work spaces, Emanuel said.

It will be wrapped by electrochrome shading glass and feature an 80-foot atrium that lets in natural light.

Emanuel said Applied expects to announce more Heartwood tenants soon.

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Changing Omaha: More than 50 stories of local development projects in the works

Local
'Punitive, excessive': Omaha snow shoveling bills won't be as big under changes OK'd by council

Omaha property owners who get behind on shoveling their sidewalks and let the city’s contractor do the job should face less sticker shock this winter.

City bills for clearing the sidewalks last winter averaged nearly $950. Some property owners told of dealing with health troubles and hospital stays and returning home to “astronomical” bills.

The Omaha City Council passed a new ordinance Tuesday requiring Public Works to determine and charge residents and business owners the market rate for scooping sidewalks.

Shoveling scofflaws will pay a penalty for letting the city or its contractors shovel their walks more than once. The city is adding new fines for repeat offenders of up to $300 per offense.

Even with the new limits on snow removal bills, people could still pay hundreds of dollars to remove packed and hardened ice and snow, which is often left on sidewalks for several days and draws complaints to City Hall, Public Works officials say.

Even so, City Councilwoman Aimee Melton said the city needs a better process than it had in 2018-19, when 184 property owners were billed a total of $174,117 to remove snow from sidewalks.

The city charged most Omaha homeowners between $300 and $700, though some who live on corner lots or with long stretches of sidewalk received bills of more than $1,000.

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Many commercial and industrial property owners received bills for more than $3,000. A handful are fighting the city, including at least one business owner who has sued.

The city’s current billing rules do not distinguish between repeat offenders and taxpayers who either got behind or just made a mistake and didn’t clear their walks, Melton said.

“It was way more than punitive,” she said Tuesday. “It was excessive.”

Her ordinance, which requires property owners to be charged no more than the market rate as determined by the city each year, passed the council 7-0 on Tuesday.

The council made the changes over the objections of Public Works officials, who previously had asked the council to wait on Melton’s proposal but relented on Tuesday.

They expressed concern about language in the ordinance allowing Public Works to bid out the sidewalk work or do it with city employees.

Bob Stubbe, the city’s Public Works director, said his department doesn’t have enough people to do the work.

Public Works officials have been working to find more bidders earlier in the year, to avoid a repeat of the big bills received by some property owners last winter. Officials said Tuesday that they had already received eight bids.

Last fall, only two contractors submitted bids to do the sidewalk work. The lowest bidder, DPS, charged $6 to $10 a foot for snow removal, depending on the snow’s depth.

The new bids, which are still being reviewed by Public Works, range from $2.25 per linear foot to $25 per foot, city officials said.

Stubbe said during a Sept. 17 pre-council meeting that his department is trying to break the contract into smaller pieces so more companies can bid.

Melton said she wanted to pass her ordinance to make sure a future Public Works director and City Council don’t have to deal with another round of high bills.

Her hope is that Public Works could not forward the council a bid as high as last year and that the ordinance will remind Public Works of the cost of being complacent in seeking bids.

Council member Rich Pahls said the council needed to approve the ordinance to provide the oversight necessary to make sure Public Works follows through with securing more and better bids.

Said Melton: “This keeps the pressure on Public Works to make sure they’re actively seeking lower bids ... so it’s more fair to the people” who miss shoveling their walks once.

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