Donald Trump calls impeachment inquiry 'a coup'

US president says investigation launched by Democrats is 'intended to take away the power of the people'.

    US President Donald Trump has ramped up his rhetoric on an impeachment inquiry by Democrats, labelling it a "coup" designed to "take away the power of the people".

    The comments were quickly slammed by Trump's critics who pointed to the United States constitution and the definition of a coup. 

    "As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP," Trump tweeted late on Tuesday. 

    It is "intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!" he wrote.

    "The Greatest Witch Hunt in the history of our Country!" the 73-year-old leader posted.

    Critics highlighted that a coup is often defined as a violent and sudden overthrow of a government by an opposing group, while impeachment is a legal process laid out in the US constitution. 

    "If impeachment is really an "attempted coup d'etat," so are these because just like impeachment they are literally in Article I of the Constitution: 1. House elections 2. Senate elections 3. Assembling of Congress 4. Raising revenue 5. Regulating commerce 6. Coining money ...," tweeted David Priess, the head of Lawfare, a national security blog. 

    Trump comments came after several of his staunch supporters used the "coup" line when defending Trump on Fox News. 

    Last week, Democrats in the US House of Representatives launched an impeachment inquiry that centres around a July 25 phone call that Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

    In the call, Trump asked Zelensky to open an investigation into the Republican president's political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, who is a leading 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful. 

    That call and other actions by the Trump administration were the subjects of a whistle-blower complaint that accused the president of "using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 US election". 

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    Trump, who denies the allegation, has been increasingly using strong language to lash out at the Democrats and the inquiry, repeatedly referring to it as "a witch hunt".

    Over the weekend, he promoted comments by a pastor who said that if Trump were to be removed from office through a full impeachment process, it could lead to a "civil war", a tweet that drew concern even from the members of his Republican Party.

    On Monday, Trump dubbed the whistle-blower as "fake", and questioned if Democrat Adam Schiff, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, should be arrested for treason. Those comments have also been highly criticised. 

    Pompeo warned against obstruction

    Trump faces the possibility of becoming only the third president ever to be impeached by the US Congress, which could lead to a trial in the Senate.

    Meanwhile, Pompeo accused three Democratic House committee heads conducting the impeachment inquiry of "an attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State".

    But Democrats said the top US diplomat was "stonewalling" the investigation and, according to media reports, scheduled interviews with at least two of the diplomats who had direct involvement in the Ukraine matter.

    The first move of the three powerful House Democrats - Schiff of the Intelligence Committee, Eliot Engel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Elijah Cummings of the Oversight Committee - was to subpoena Pompeo and Trump's private lawyer Rudy Giuliani for documents and to summon the five diplomats to testify.

    "Secretary Pompeo was reportedly on the call when the president pressed Ukraine to smear his political opponent," they said.

    Pompeo's letter suggested that the committees could be forced to subpoena the five diplomats, and that the State Department and the White House could seek to limit what they could talk about.

    "I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead," Pompeo said.

    But news reports said the State Department's former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, would testify on Thursday and that the ex-ambassador to Kiev, Marie Yovanovitch, would appear behind closed doors on October 11.

    The three committee heads warned Pompeo in a statement on Tuesday that any effort to prevent witnesses from speaking to them was "illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry".

    Will US President Donald Trump be impeached?

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    Will US President Donald Trump be impeached?

    SOURCE: News agencies