Trump row with Democrats takes harsh turn with impeachment at stake

US President Donald Trump gestures as he walks on the tarmac at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, during a refuel stop en route to Japan on May 24. - AFP



By JIM MANNION

WASHINGTON -
US President Donald Trump doubled down Friday on his claim of an "attempted coup" against him as his battle with Democratic foes entered a vicious new phase of personal insults and strong-arm tactics.

Hovering over it all: the looming question of whether or not the Republican leader will be impeached - "the big I-word," as Trump put it recently.

The president said he has given his attorney general wide latitude to declassify intelligence information as he probes the origins of the government's investigation into Trump's 2016 campaign ties to Russia.

"They will be able to see ... how the hoax or witch hunt started and why it started," he told reporters as he departed on a trip to Japan. "It was an attempted coup or an attempted takedown of the president of the United States."

"There's word and rumor that the FBI and others were involved, CIA were involved with the UK, having to do with the Russian hoax," he said, adding that he might talk to the outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May about it.

"We're exposing everything," he added.

Trump's bid to turn the tables on his political opponents comes amid an escalating constitutional clash of powers with the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

House Democratic leaders have launched numerous probes aimed at getting evidence gathered during Special Counsel Robert Mueller's 22-month probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign - only to be stonewalled by the White House.

That has raised calls by Democrats to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump.

In an odd turn however, it has been House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Trump's congressional nemesis, who has pumped the brakes on impeachment - even as she accuses the president of a potentially impeachable cover-up.

The president, for his part, is daring his opponents to initiate proceedings against him - confident that an impeachment by the House would most certainly be blocked in the Republican-controlled Senate.

"'If they try to Impeach President Trump, who has done nothing wrong (No Collusion), they will end up getting him re-elected,'" the president wrote Friday, approvingly retweeting a warning to Democrats by a fellow Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham. - AFP