As cable news channels breathlessly waited Tuesday for Democratic presidential hopeful Joseph R. Biden to declare his support for impeachment, President Trump stole the spotlight.
Mr. Trump announced in a tweet that he was going to do exactly what Mr. Biden planned to demand: release the transcript of his much-discussed phone call with the Ukrainian president.
The tweet, which he typed out just minutes before Mr. Biden’s major news conference, forced the campaign team into a hectic rewrite session that delayed the speech for an hour.
Throughout a day dominated by an impeachment circus that spanned from Capitol Hill to the campaign trail, Mr. Trump repeatedly showed he was the ringmaster.
He preempted Mr. Biden’s speech, launched an anti-impeachment fundraising drive for the Trump reelection campaign and did a victory dance when told by reporters that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, was opening a formal impeachment inquiry.
He called Mrs. Pelosi’s move “a positive for me.”
“Our country’s doing the best it’s ever done. They’re going to lose the election,” he told reporters in New York, where he attended the United Nations General Assembly. “How can you do this and you haven’t even seen the phone call?”
Mr. Trump’s phone call in July with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was the impetus for the Democrats’ latest impeachment push. A whistleblower accused Mr. Trump of pressuring Mr. Zelensky, using U.S. foreign aid as a lever, to investigate corruption involving Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, who served on a board of a Ukrainian gas company.
House Democrats demanded that Mr. Trump turn over documents including a transcript of the call, and Mr. Biden was expected to predicate his endorsement of impeachment on Mr. Trump’s compliance with the request.
But the Trump tweet threw Mr. Biden a curveball.
Mr. Trump promised to release Wednesday a “complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript” of the July 25 phone conversation Mr. Zelensky.
“You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call,” he wrote. “No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo! This is nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!”
When Mr. Biden eventually got behind the press conference lectern, he said the transcript wasn’t enough.
Mr. Trump’s failure to fully comply with all document requests and all investigation would leave Congress “no choice but to initiate impeachment.”
On Tuesday evening, though, multiple news outlets reported that the White House was dropping its objections to the whistleblower’s testimony before Congress and to providing the written complaint to the inspector general, though some details on the testimony still needed to be worked out.
However the Trump reelection campaign began raising money off House Democrats’ impeachment fervor, which had been building for days and forcing Mrs. Pelosi to drop opposition to the politically risky endeavor.
The Trump campaign offered to sell his fans a $5 membership in the “Official Impeachment Defense Task Force.”
The soliciting email said Democrats “know they have no chance of winning in 2020, so now they are crying, ‘Impeachment!’”
“We won’t stand for this any longer, and neither should YOU. Which is why President Trump is launching the Official Impeachment Defense Task Force,” it said. “This task force will be made up of only President Trump’s most LOYAL supporters, the ones committed to fighting for him, re-electing him, and taking back the House.”
The plea came with a deadline of 4 p.m., when Mrs. Pelosi was scheduled to convene a meeting with the House Democratic Caucus to discuss the sanctioned impeachment effort.
The email said the $5 contribution would be “double-matched.”
The campaign later resent the email with the deadline extended to midnight.
Mrs. Pelosi’s intention to announce a “formal impeachment inquiry” was leaked to the news media before the caucus meeting.
It was unclear how Mrs. Pelosi’s announcement impacted Mr. Trump. The speaker didn’t announce a House vote to proceed with impeachment or say what had changed for several ongoing investigations of the president.
“They never even saw the transcript of the call. A total Witch Hunt!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
He then resorted to his signature all-capital-letters style to call the matter “presidential harassment!”
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