US president faces impeachment probe for prodding his Ukraine counterpart to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden

Washington: Washington plunged into an impeachment crisis on Wed-nesday, as House Democrats opened an investigation into President Donald Trump's election campaign season dealings with Ukraine.

At the heart of the impeachment inquiry are details of a phone call between the President and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, whom Trump prodded to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, whose son worked for a Ukrainian gas firm.

The specific charge is that Trump urged Zelensky to contact American Attorney General William P. Barr about opening the corruption investigation against Biden’s son. "Whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great," Trump is heard saying in the incriminating call.

Trump’s suggestion that the American Attorney General be directly contacted by Ukraine’s government marks the first evidence that the president personally sought to harness the power of the United States government to further a politically motivated investigation.

Trump is also accused of withholding US military aid to Ukraine as leverage in a bid to smear his political rival Joe Biden. The Trump-Ukraine phone call is part of a whistleblower's complaint.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the formal impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, yield-ing to mounting pressure from fellow Democrats and plunging a deeply divided nation into an election year clash between Cong and the commander in chief.

The probe injects deep uncertainty into the 2020 election campaign and tests anew the nation's constitutional system of checks and balances.

Trump, who thrives on combat, has all but dared Democrats to take this step, confident that the specter of impeachment led by the opposition party will bolster rather than diminish his political support.

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