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South Carolina congressman Joe Cunningham addresses the South Carolina Democratic convention at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center on June 22. File/John A. Carlos II/Special to The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham didn't immediately sign on to House Speaker Nancy's Pelosi's call for an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Instead, the Charleston Democrat who is a leading Republican target in 2020 called for more information about Trump's interactions with the Ukrainian president amid reports Trump applied pressure for an investigation into a political rival.

"The American people deserve to know if the president pressured a foreign leader into targeting an American citizen," Cunningham said in a statement issued before Pelosi's announcement Tuesday.

"That's why I'm calling for a bipartisan effort to get to the bottom of these claims," he continued. "We must all demand that the Director of National Intelligence fully cooperate at Thursday's testimony."

After months of reluctance, Pelosi on Tuesday called for an impeachment inquiry into the president, pointing to media reports and a whistleblower's charge about questionable statements attributed to a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

At issue is whether Trump sought to influence a Ukrainian investigation that would loop in presidential front-runner Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Cunningham's more cautious approach comes as he represents the coastal 1st Congressional District, a district Trump won handily three years ago.

However, the state's other Democrat in Congress, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, said he agrees with Pelosi and that it is time to act on the president's conduct.

Saying his "approach is always to proceed with reason and not emotion," Clyburn, a Columbia Democrat,  said in a media statement the alleged conduct by the president constitutes "an egregious violation of his constitutional duties."

He added, "This is about protecting our national security, standing up for the rule of law and patriotism. I support the official impeachment inquiry announced by the speaker today.”

State Republicans, meanwhile, were quick to call the probe partisanship at its worse and an attempt to undo the 2016 election.  

“There you have it folks – the witch hunt continues," said Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens.

He said House Democrats "have spent the last three years trying to overturn an election that didn’t go their way by spinning fairy tales of Russian collusion and claiming they had evidence of it. Did they? No. There was no collusion and no obstruction."

He added "If this accusation fails to achieve the opposition’s desired result, they’ll just keep trying with another issue."

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U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach, said it was "disappointing but not surprising" that Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry based on "an unverified second-hand account, rather than waiting 24 hours for President Trump’s voluntary release of the full transcript of the phone call."

Trump has said he will let the transcript out Wednesday, unredacted and declassified.

That was the same tack taken by another South Carolina Republican and Trump-backer, Rep. Ralph Norman of Rock Hill.

"Democrats have launched an impeachment inquiry based on a whistle-blower's secondhand account of a phone call, but couldn't bother to wait for the actual transcript of the call itself," he said in a tweet. 

"That should tell you something. Despite the incredible things Donald Trump has accomplished, imagine how much further along our country would be if Democrats weren't actively trying to destroy him at every turn."

Republican National Committee spokesman Joe Jackson continued to press Cunningham to take a position one way or the other on the issue.

"South Carolinians deserve to know if he’s on their side and the side of a majority of Americans who oppose impeachment, or if he’s on the side of the socialist Democrats who would rather sideline the issues that voters care about in favor of more baseless investigations," Jackson said.

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.