Leading House Democrats are preparing to announce articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump early Tuesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with the chairmen of various House committees late Monday after the House Judiciary Committee wrapped up impeachment hearings with Democratic chairman Jerrold Nadler saying that U.S. President Donald Trump’s efforts to “cheat to win an election” is a threat to national security.
“I think there’s a lot of agreement,” Eliot Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee, told reporters after the meeting. “You’ll hear about about some of it tomorrow.”
The lawmakers offered no other details of how many articles of impeachment are being prepared but they are expected to include abuse of power and obstruction of a congressional inquiry.
In the daylong testimony, Democratic and Republican leaders of the committee laid out sharply divergent views for and against the impeachment of Trump.
Nadler said after the panel heard from House Intelligence Committee staff on their investigation of Trump: “Such conduct is clearly impeachable. This committee will proceed accordingly.”
The Democratic committee chair said repeatedly throughout the day, “President Trump put himself above the country,” as he pushed Ukraine to investigate one of his chief 2020 Democratic challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden, while temporarily withholding $391 million in military assistance Kyiv wanted to fight pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country.
But the Judiciary panel’s lead Republican, Congressman Doug Collins, a staunch supporter of the president, said that despite Trump’s request for the Biden investigation, “Ukraine did nothing and got the aid anyway.”
Collins accused Democrats in the House of Representatives of pursuing Trump’s impeachment as soon as they won the chamber’s majority a year ago, “to make sure the president can’t win next year” when he is seeking re-election.
“Where’s the impeachable offense?” Collins asked. “We don’t have a crime.”
The Judiciary Committee hearing on the allegations against Trump is a rare moment in the 243-year history of the U.S., only the fourth time an American leader has faced an impeachment inquiry. Two U.S. presidents have been impeached, but none removed from office through the impeachment process.
As the nationally televised hearing unfolded, Trump assailed his congressional critics, saying on Twitter, “The Do Nothing Democrats are a disgrace!”
The Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Democratic and Republican lawyers about the case for and against the American leader, even as Nadler rejected several attempts by minority Republicans to delay the proceedings with parliamentary challenges.
Democratic attorney Daniel Goldman said the effort to get Ukraine to investigate Biden was part of “a months-long scheme concocted by the president” that presented “a clear and present danger to our national security” because Ukraine, a U.S. ally, feared the possibility of further Russian advances on its land after Moscow had already unilaterally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.
Goldman added that Trump’s “persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security.”
Republican lawyer Stephen Castor said the impeachment of Trump would be “undoing the votes of 63 million Americans” who voted for Trump three years ago. He contended that the Democrats’ case against Trump was based on “hearsay, innuendo and presumptions.”
Castor accused Democrats of rushing to judgment on Trump’s impeachment without hearing from key witnesses with knowledge of Trump’s actions. The president, however, directed top officials in his administration to not testify, even though some did, and has blocked turning over Ukraine-related documents investigators sought to review.
Articles of impeachment
The Judiciary panel is drafting articles of impeachment against Trump. But Nadler says the number of articles of impeachment and the scope of the allegations won’t be decided until after lawmakers hear summations of evidence collected by the Judiciary Committee staff and testimony heard in recent weeks by the House Intelligence Committee.
Nadler said Sunday the Judiciary Committee could possibly vote this week on articles of impeachment against Trump, setting the stage for a simple-majority vote in the full Democratic-controlled House before the annual congressional Christmas holiday recess starts late next week.
If Trump is impeached, as appears likely, the Republican-majority Senate would try him on the impeachment allegations in January. But his conviction by the required 67 of the chamber’s 100 members and removal from office remains unlikely. At least 20 Republicans would have to turn against Trump for a conviction, but none has called for his conviction and ouster from the White House.
The White House is not participating in Monday’s hearing, with Nadler saying, “President Trump chose not to show.”
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone attacked the unfolding impeachment inquiry as “completely baseless” and called potential impeachment articles “a reckless abuse of power.”
Trump posted Twitter comments Sunday labeling the process a “witch hunt,” a “hoax,” and lacking due process, while also sharing numerous posts from others saying he is being treated unfairly.
Democrats say the evidence against the president is clear.
Nadler told CNN that Trump would be found guilty in “three minutes flat” if he were facing charges before a criminal court jury that he abused his office by soliciting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, his son Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company, and a debunked theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election Trump won, not Russia, as the U.S. intelligence community concluded.
Castor did not exclude Russian meddling in the election to help Trump win, but said possible Ukraine interference to oppose Trump was also “appropriate to examine” as Trump wanted.
“The impeachment inquiry has returned no direct evidence that President Trump withheld a meeting (with Zelenskiy at the White House, although it has not occurred) or security assistance in order to pressure President Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Biden for the president’s political benefit,” Castor said.
Republicans have contended that Trump’s call for investigations in Ukraine were aimed at corruption generally in the eastern European country, even though he only specifically mentioned the Bidens and the 2016 election in a July 25 call with the Ukrainian leader.
“We have considerable evidence that President Trump was skeptical of Ukraine due to its corruption,” Castor said. “We have evidence that the president was skeptical of foreign assistance in general.”
Nadler said in the CNN interview that if Trump “had any exculpatory evidence,” he would be making it known rather than rejecting participation in the hearings.
There is some division among Democrats about whether to limit impeachment articles to allegations Trump abused his power by asking a foreign government for help in a U.S. election and obstruction for White House refusal to turn over documents and allow key Trump aides to testify in the investigation, or to expand to include allegations Trump sought to obstruct special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump could be the third U.S. president to be impeached, after Andrew Johnson in the mid-19th century and Bill Clinton two decades ago, although both were acquitted in Senate trials and remained in office. Former President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 in the face of certain impeachment in the Watergate political corruption scandal and cover-up.