WASHINGTON — House Democrats rushed on Wednesday to plot the course of a historic impeachment inquiry into President Trump, getting their first glimpses of the secret intelligence whistle-blower complaint that touched off the investigation that could lead to his removal.

Less than 24 hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would pursue an official impeachment inquiry, the disclosure of the complaint to Congress underscored how rapidly things were changing now that lawmakers have made the pivot to using their powers under the Constitution to weigh charges against the president.

Ms. Pelosi spent Wednesday largely sequestered behind closed doors, strategizing with her leadership team, top aides and a group of six committee leaders investigating Mr. Trump. She repeatedly stressed that she wanted the House to move “expeditiously” to uncover new facts about Mr. Trump’s attempts to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate Joseph R. Biden Jr., one of his leading political rivals, for corruption.

But Democrats did not intend to hold a vote on the House floor to formally authorize the inquiry, as has been done in the past, lawmakers and senior party officials said. Instead, they were planning to use the coming weeks to build as strong a case as they could against Mr. Trump, with an eye toward drafting articles of impeachment against him. That would mean the House would not vote on the matter unless the articles of impeachment were brought to the floor.

As they strategized and debated how best to structure the inquiry, lawmakers made headway in obtaining documentary evidence that could constitute a crucial piece of their case. Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine are at least part of the whistle-blower complaint that the Trump administration had withheld from Congress until Wednesday afternoon, and which is said to contain a detailed account of the president’s attempts to pressure a foreign power for personal political gain.

Democrats plan to make those interactions the top priority of their impeachment case, senior lawmakers and aides familiar with the speaker’s thinking said, emphasizing again and again what Ms. Pelosi has called the president’s “betrayal” of his oath, of national security and of the American electoral process.

Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee who is leading the House’s Ukraine investigation, said early Wednesday afternoon that a newly released summary of a July conversation between Mr. Trump and the Ukrainian leader, in which Mr. Trump offered the assistance of his personal lawyer and the attorney general, only added urgency to that point.

“The notes of the call reflect a conversation far more damning than I or many others had imagined,” Mr. Schiff told reporters, calling the conversation a “classic, mafia-like shakedown of a foreign leader” that constituted “very powerful evidence of that kind of potential impeachable offense.” On Wednesday afternoon, his committee also finally got its hands on the complaint itself.

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CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

As the facts around Mr. Trump’s alleged pressure campaign came into clearer focus, though, significant questions went unanswered about the scope and speed of Democrats’ inquiry, with lawmakers from the party’s progressive and moderate wings at odds over how to handle accusations of presidential wrongdoing.

For now at least, Democrats do not intend to limit their inquiry to the Ukraine episode. They are planning to consider other matters they have been investigating as possible impeachable offenses, including the findings of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections and Mr. Trump’s attempts to derail that inquiry. Each could still form the substance of separate articles of impeachment for consideration by the House.

But during a meeting with members of her leadership team, the speaker initiated a discussion about whether Democrats should limit their case strictly to the Ukraine matter and attempts by Mr. Trump and his administration to keep it from Congress, people familiar with the conversation said. An aide to Ms. Pelosi cautioned that no final decisions had been made.

Proponents of limiting the impeachment inquiry argue that the Ukraine case makes for a fresher, simpler case to make to voters, but also that it could create space for national security-minded Republicans to cross party lines.

Representative Mikie Sherrill, a freshman Democrat who represents a swing district in New Jersey, said her party had not made its case to voters that Mr. Trump obstructed justice in the Russia investigation, and would be better served to confine the impeachment inquiry to the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

“I am worried about it getting too broad,” Ms. Sherrill said.

Representative Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, another first-term Democrat who holds a seat Mr. Trump won in 2016, said she spoke privately with Ms. Pelosi on Tuesday night to warn that the newly announced inquiry must be more focused than the six-committee investigation long underway.

“Whatever process moving forward we have, it should be different, it should be strategic, clear and efficient,” Ms. Slotkin said in an interview.

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CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Democrats were closely watching their Republican counterparts for any signs of potential cracks in support for Mr. Trump. There was no expectation that party leaders — many of whom began the day at the White House, reviewing the transcript before it was public and hearing via phone from the president — would level a word of criticism.

“It’s now clear that Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry on the basis of rumors, rumors that turned out to be false,” said Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican.

But there were faint signs of growing discomfort among a handful of Republicans, both about what has been revealed about Mr. Trump’s actions and his administration’s handling of the whistle-blower complaint.

Most notably, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the 2012 Republican nominee for president, told reporters that the summary of the call was “deeply troubling.” And when asked at the Atlantic Festival in Washington later in the day why he was one of the few Republicans criticizing the president, Mr. Romney took a swipe at his party.

“I think it’s very natural for people to look at circumstances and see them in the light that’s most amenable to their maintaining power, and doing things to preserve that power,” he said.

Mr. Romney was not entirely alone. Representative Chris Stewart, Republican of Utah and a member of the Intelligence Committee, said that “there were some things that gave me a little pause” in the summary of the call. He would not elaborate, but suggested he needed to see more information.

The situation in the House reflected just how quickly Democrats’ views of impeachment had evolved in the past week. Although the House Judiciary Committee has been conducting an investigation for months into possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power, House Democrats remained divided over an official move toward impeachment until the emergence of the secret whistle-blower complaint about Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, and his administration’s attempts to block Congress from learning more about it.

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CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

Now, Democrats are wary of repeating some of the mistakes they believe they made around the rollout of Mr. Mueller’s report, when many of them now think they moved too slowly and allowed Mr. Trump and his allies to define what wrongdoing looked like.

“There is an understanding that all justice should be swift and sure and that this has to happen deliberately, but relatively quickly,” said Representative Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut and a member of the Intelligence Committee.

That will be made more difficult by the fact that the House is scheduled to depart for a two-week recess on Friday. Some Democrats and progressive activists called for it to be canceled.

“For us to not tend to this matter first and foremost, when we are calling it a matter of national security, a matter that’s so incredibly significant, I think leaving for two weeks would be irresponsible,” said Representative Susan Wild, Democrat of Pennsylvania.

But Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking Democrat, said on Wednesday that it was important to preserve the recess so lawmakers could go home and explain the building case against the president to their constituents. And committees involved in the investigations planned to remain active over the break, potentially holding hearings.

Jonathan Martin and Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

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