WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump has described a Ukraine-related impeachment inquiry launched against him as "the greatest scam in the history of American politics."
Trump's statement in a 38-second video message on social media came in response to the inquiry launched amid allegations that he held back military aid for Ukraine in order to pressure Kyiv to launch an investigation into his political opponent, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump said Democrats who initiated the impeachment inquiry last week in the House of Representatives “want to take away everything.”
He said the Democrats “want to take away your guns, your freedom…and I’ll never let that happen.”
At the heart of the scandal is a whistle-blower’s report released this week that detailed Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
During their discussion, Trump asked Zelenskiy for help in investigating Biden -- who is running to become the Democratic candidate in the 2020 U.S. presidential election -- and his son Hunter, who had sat on the board of an energy company in Ukraine.
Trump, a Republican, had abruptly cancelled some $400 million worth of military aid to Kyiv leading up to the phone call.
A five-page rough transcript of the Trump-Zelenskiy phone call was released by the White House on September 25.
According to that memo by White House notetakers, Trump told Zelenskiy that his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General Willian Barr would follow up on investigations in Ukraine and be the main contacts.
Giuliani has confirmed that he contacted Ukrainian authorities about possibly investigating Biden and his son.
In a September 28 social media post, Giuliani said the Democrats and media are bent on destroying him.
"I knew the Swamp Media and corrupt Dems would try to destroy me," the former mayor of New York said.
Trump has also acknowledged asking Ukraine to investigate Biden, but both he and Giuliani deny they did anything wrong.
Barr subsequently said through a statement that Trump never asked him to investigate Biden.
After the July 25 call, according to accounts by the whistle-blower, White House officials sought to “lock down” records of the discussion.
Nancy Pelosi, the most senior Democrat and speaker of the House, called the "lock down" effort a "cover up” during a September 26 news conference.
At a journalist event hosted by the Texas Tribune, Pelosi said public opinion had shifted toward moving forward with an impeachment investigation.
“In the public, the tide has completely changed; it could change now -- who knows -- but right now after seeing the complaint…and the cavalier attitude the administration had towards it, the American people are coming to a different decision," Pelosi said, according to Reuters.
Polls currently show the U.S. public is split on backing impeachment.
Articles of impeachments are generally initiated in the House Judiciary Committee before being passed on to the full House for a vote.
But any impeachment trial would be held in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, where conviction and removal from office would need a two-thirds majority and is seen as unlikely.
Two presidents -- Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 -- have been subject to impeachment proceedings. Both were acquitted in the Senate.
The House approved articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon in 1974, but he resigned before proceedings began in the Senate – the only resignation of a U.S. president in history.