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US House Democrats plunge into Trump impeachment inquiry

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US House Democrats plunge into Trump impeachment inquiry
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REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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Democrats in the US House of Representatives plunge into a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Wednesday, a move that could dramatically change the 2020 presidential race.

The Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump on Tuesday.

The announcement comes after an internal US watchdog was forbidden by the Trump administration from turning over a whistleblower complaint, Pelosi said. The intelligence community's inspector general determined the complaint was credible.

Pelosi said the administration broke the law by refusing to provide Congress with the whistleblower complaint.

"The actions taken to date by the President have seriously violated the Constitution," she said as she warned that the government needed to work to remain a republic instead of a monarchy.

The complaint alleges Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a July phone call to investigate the son of his main Democratic rival for his involvement with a Ukrainian energy company, according to US media outlets.

Trump team brushes off impeachment inquiry

In a series of Tweets, Trump denounced a so-called "presidential harrassment."

"They never even saw the transcript of the call. A total Witch hunt!" Trump wrote.

Trump's re-election campaign raised a quarter of a million dollars in just 15 minutes on Tuesday in the immediate aftermath of the announcement.

"We had a lot of things prepared just in case the Democrats were, in fact, that stupid. And in fact, they were", said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign's communications director, reacting to the impeachment process and disclosing the campaign's early cash haul.

"So we are probably going to have a tremendous fundraising surge. We think that this gets the president just that much closer to a landslide victory."

Biden currently front-runner

Former Vice President Joe Biden is currently the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary.

"Pursuing the leader of another nation to investigate a political opponent to help win his election is not the conduct of an American president," Biden said of the allegations.

"If he continues to obstruct Congress and flout the law, Donald Trump will leave Congress, in my view, no choice but to initiate impeachment," he said.

The details of the phone call reportedly come from a whistleblower complaint filed with an internal government watchdog from within the intelligence community.

Trump said on Tuesday that he had authorised the release of the transcript of his phone call with the Ukrainian president.

The US Senate also voted to call for the whistleblower complaint to be submitted to the Senate and House intelligence committees.

Pressure has been mounting for lawmakers from the Democratic party to call for an impeachment inquiry. Seven Democratic representatives in the House wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for impeachment hearings over the allegations.

"The President must be held accountable, no one is above the law," Pelosi said on Tuesday as she announced the inquiry.