Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement Tuesday that the Democratic-controlled U.S. House will begin an impeachment inquiry into Republican President Donald Trump drew criticism from some Republican members of North Carolina’s delegation to Congress.
Local Democratic leaders supported the move.
Pelosi said the inquiry was necessary to determine whether Trump betrayed his oath of office, U.S. national security and the integrity of the country’s elections.
Democrats suspect Trump of pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 phone call to investigate Joe Biden, the former vice president and potential 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, and his son, Hunter.
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th, said she was disappointed with Pelosi’s announcement of an impeachment inquiry into Trump. The 5th District includes Forsyth County and much of Northwest North Carolina.
“I cannot say I’m at all surprised,” Foxx said. “Obsession over the 2016 election results has consumed the Democratic Party and dominated (its) agenda as the House majority.
“Instead of working with President Trump to sustain our strong economy and lower the costs of prescription drugs, Democrats are grasping to impeach the president,” Foxx said. “Instead of waiting for the transcript of his conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine, which the president will release ... or seeing if committee proceedings bear out the whistleblower’s allegations, (Pelosi) has decided to make members of her party happy rather than legislate for the American people.”
Before Pelosi’s announcement, Trump said he will release a transcript of his July 25 phone call with Zelensky today. Trump said the call was “totally appropriate” as he sought to tamp down a tidal wave of scrutiny over his dealings with Ukraine.
U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, R-13th, released a statement after Pelosi spoke about the impeachment inquiry. The 13th District includes Davidson and Davie counties.
“President Trump is right to release the full, unredacted transcript of his call with the Ukrainian president,” Budd said in the written statement. “That’s the first-hand account of the call.
“It’s incredibly reckless for House Democrats to base an impeachment inquiry on the second-hand account of a whistle-blower whose attorney worked for (Democratic Sen.) Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton,” Budd said.
U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, R-6th, said in a statement Tuesday that said in part, “House Democrats have been tilting at windmills in search of impeachment for the last three years, and they now think they have found their Don Quixote in a leaker who is pushing secondhand rumors.”
“After saying it ‘divides the country,’ Speaker Pelosi now says impeachment is a ‘healing process’ and is taking an action supported by barely one-third of American voters,” Walker said.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, D-12th, couldn’t be reached for comment. However, Adams said in a previous statement that she supports an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions.
“The president has demonstrated a clear disregard for the rule of law, and he must be held accountable,” said Adams’ 12th District is now in Mecklenburg County but it formerly included a portion of Forsyth, among other areas.
Larry Johnson, the chairman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party, said Tuesday night he wasn’t surprised that the impeachment inquiry will happen.
“Congress has responsibilities to do certain duties, and holding the president accountable is one of those things,” Johnson said. “The United States is governed by the rule of law. The president has violated the laws of the U.S.”
Aaron Berlin, the chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party, pointed to Biden’s statement to MSNBC two months ago in which Biden said ‘Nancy Pelosi is doing a masterful job.’
“Masterful, by definition, means the power to control others,” Berlin said. “As soon as Joe Biden gets into damaging, hot water, Pelosi sounds the alarm of impeachment.
“Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on a political sideshow, Democrats should focus on what matters to American families: creating more jobs, lowering healthcare prices, passing the president’s pro-worker trade deal, fighting the opioid crisis, and more,” Berlin said.
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. a Winston-Salem native, didn’t release a statement Tuesday about the impeachment inquiry. Burr has stayed mostly quiet on whether the House should begin an impeachment inquiry into Trump.
The campaign of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., issued a statement regarding the impeachment inquiry. Tillis is running for a second term in the U.S. Senate next year and sought to tie the impeachment issue to his potential Democratic opponents in North Carolina.
“While Cal Cunningham and Erica Smith want to impeach the president or throw him in jail without any justification, Sen. Tillis supports the president, and will continue working with him on the initiatives that will improve the everyday lives of North Carolinians,” said Andrew Romeo, a Tillis campaign spokesman.
Romeo was referring to Cal Cunningham, a former Democratic state senator and Winston-Salem native, and state Sen. Erica Smith, D-Beaufort, who have said they will run for the Democratic nomination in the March primary in their bids to defeat Tillis in the November 2020 elections.
“Sen. Tillis’ agenda is creating jobs, securing the border, confirming conservative justices, and rebuilding the military,” Romeo said. “Sen. Tillis is pleased that President Trump will make available the transcript of his call with President Zelensky.
“He’s confident that the call was as President Trump said it was,” Romeo said, “and that the Democrats who have jumped to conclusions will look foolish as the facts come out and vindicate the president.” Romeo said.
In a statement, Cunningham defended his record and said members of Congress should uphold their "sworn duty to defend the Constitution."
“As a former prosecutor, I’ve faced down corruption, lawlessness, and abuse of power in state and federal courtrooms and in the war zone in Iraq. In each case, the mission was the same: uncover the facts and pursue the rule of law," he said in the statement.
Cunningham added: "I call on Sen. Tillis and Republicans in Congress to demand the White House release the whistleblower complaint so that all of us can learn the facts."
John Dinan, a political-science professor at Wake Forest University, said that Pelosi has worked hard to restrain several progressive House Democrats who have been eager to begin impeachment proceedings.
Pelosi wanted to protect “some more moderate Democrats in swing districts from having to take difficult votes on impeachment and in part also because of a concern that focusing on impeachment would take away from coverage of other Democratic policy priorities on health care and other issues,” Dinan said in an email.