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.”
Overturning the will of the American people requires evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, and that has not happened. The rashness to pronounce guilt without facts is shameful and does not serve the interest of the nation.— Rep. Don Bacon (@RepDonBacon) September 24, 2019
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.”