There’s little doubt that both sides of the “special relationship” had a rough day on Tuesday. The only question really is who had it worse.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Donald Trump were both in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly. Ultimately neither could escape their political problems.
At roughly 5.45 a.m. local time Tuesday, Johnson would have been awaked by the news that the U.K. Supreme Court had declared his decision to suspend Parliament “unlawful, void and of no effect.”
The extraordinary decision meant British lawmakers would return to Parliament on Wednesday, throwing a spanner in the prime minister’s plans for leaving the European Union. “Parliament has not been prorogued,” said Brenda Hale, president of the Supreme Court, using a legal term to refer to the suspension.
In contrast, the U.S. president may have appeared to have a relatively calm morning. Appearing at a midday news conference with Johnson, Trump spent much of his time praising the embattled British prime minister.
“He’s a professional,” he said. “It’s just another day at the office.”
But Trump was himself dogged by difficult questions pertaining to a phone call he had with the Ukrainian president in which he allegedly brought up investigating former vice president Joe Biden and his son.
Asked at the news conference why aid was withheld from Ukraine, the president gave a lengthy answer that pointed the blame at other nations.
“There was never any quid pro quo,” Trump said, shortly before ending the news conference.
The phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been the center of speculation after it was revealed that a member of the intelligence community had filed an official complaint about Trump’s remarks.
As the day went on, the pressure built. At 2:10 p.m., Trump said he would release a transcript of the phone call.
“I am currently at the United Nations representing our Country, but have authorized the release tomorrow of the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript of my phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine,” Trump tweeted.
Whatever the contents of the transcript, its release is unlikely to placate critics, who have argued that the full whistleblower complaint needs to be released, too.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chair of the House Intelligence Committee, announced at 2.30 p.m. that the whistleblower was seeking to speak directly to the committee and that he hoped to hear the “whistleblower’s testimony as soon as this week.”
Multiple news outlets reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she planned to launch a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump on Tuesday at around 5 p.m.
“As soon as we have the facts, we’re ready. Now that we have the facts, we’re ready,” Pelosi said at a forum hosted by the Atlantic on Tuesday. “For later today.”
Pelosi had once been among those who resisted calls to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump. According to a Washington Post analysis, a section of Democrats, who opposed impeachment, have come out in favor of an inquiry over the past 48 hours, with more than 150 of 235 House Democrats in favor.
For both Trump and Johnson, the political scandals overshadowed attempts to set the agenda at the most important gathering of world leaders of the year. The United States and Britain have been trying to find their own common ground on major foreign issues, including the standoffs with China and Iran.
And for both the British and the American leaders, the day isn’t over. That’s especially true for Johnson, who was expected to get on a flight Tuesday evening to return for the reopening of Parliament on Wednesday.
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