House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled her readiness to take stronger action against President Donald Trump over a phone call with Ukraine's president, now the subject of scrutiny after the administration refused to release a whistle-blower's complaint about the call.
"If the administration persists in blocking this whistle-blower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation," Pelosi said Sunday in a letter to colleagues.
Pelosi didn't mention impeachment, although a key House lawmaker -- Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California -- suggested Trump's actions "may very well have crossed the Rubicon" warranting further action.
Pelosi and Democratic leaders have resisted calls to start proceedings, fearing it would harm candidates seeking re-election in Republican-leaning areas. There also is little prospect that any effort would succeed in the Republican-controlled Senate, which would hold the trial after any House action.
Schiff, who two months ago wasn't ready to back impeachment, said Sunday reports that Trump in the July 25 call asked President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to reopen an investigation into a company tied to Joe Biden's son could lead to congressional action.
If the call involved criminality or gaining leverage at odds with U.S. interests, he said on CNN's "State of the Union," then it would be "the most profound violation of the presidential oath of office," He added: "It may be that we do have to move forward with that extraordinary remedy."
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has supported impeachment, in a tweet said Democrats were being weak on Trump, noting the "bigger national scandal" is the party's refusal to take action.
Schiff's committee on Thursday is set to hear from acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire about the whistle-blower's complaint. Maguire is also expected to meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"We expect him to obey the law and turn over the whistle-blower's full complaint," Pelosi said. "We also expect that he will establish a path for the whistle-blower to speak directly to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees as required by law."
The speaker said the independent inspector general for the intelligence community, who received the complaint, deemed it of "urgent concern, and credible." She said the administration's blocking its release is illegal.
"We must be sure that the President and his Administration are always conducting our national security and foreign policy in the best interest of the American people, not the President's personal or political interest," Pelosi said.
Schiff said that impeachment may be "the only remedy that is only co-equal to the evil" of Trump trying to "browbeat" a foreign leader into doing something illicit.
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