Top U.S. House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday, laying the foundation for a vote that could see him become just the third American leader in history to be impeached.
The articles of impeachment relate to two actions by Trump: One is abuse of power linked to his demand that the Ukrainian president investigate a political rival, and the second is obstructing U.S. Congress in its effort to investigate the behaviour.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), flanked by House Democratic leadership, announced the articles during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
“The president holds the ultimate public trust,” Nadler said. “When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the Constitution, he endangers our democracy, and he endangers our national security.”
Democrats signalled on Monday that the chamber’s investigations were coming to a close after current and former administration officials testified about Trump’s behaviour during a whirlwind month of House impeachment hearings.
In a series of bombshell revelations, the aides detailed an effort by Trump and his aides to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation into a prime Democratic rival, former U.S. vice-president Joe Biden, and Biden’s son, Hunter. Democrats cast the demand as a clear quid pro quo in which Trump would release nearly US$400 million ($529 million Canadian) in security aid and arrange a coveted visit to the White House for the newly elected Ukrainian leader.
Republicans, however, have largely remained steadfast behind the president, accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team of attempting to overturn the 2016 U.S. election and unfairly attacking the president. The Republicans have admitted that Trump made the demand of Ukraine, but said there is no evidence that it amounted to a quid pro quo.
The House Judiciary Committee, tasked with drafting the articles against Trump, laid out its case against the president during a marathon day of hearings on Monday that saw several dramatic clashes with Republican lawmakers.
Focus shifts to U.S. Senate
Trump’s “pattern of misconduct undermines our national security and our free and fair elections,” Nadler said in his closing remarks Monday, calling the president’s conduct “clearly impeachable.”
Nadler added: “In abusing his office in this manner, and in obstructing the investigation that followed, we know that President Trump has put himself before his country.”
If Trump is impeached, the U.S. Senate — currently controlled by Republicans in a 53-47 majority — would hold a trial that’s likely to begin early next year. A two-thirds majority vote is required to remove a president, meaning about 20 Republican lawmakers would need to join all Democratic senators in voting to remove Trump.
The Judiciary Committee will meet to consider the articles this week, Nadler said Tuesday, establishing a timeline that could see the full House debate and vote on impeachment by next week.
The president’s oath of office appears to mean very little to him.Adam Schiff, U.S. House Intelligence Committee chairman
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said during Tuesday’s news conference that the evidence against Trump is “overwhelming” and “uncontested.”
“The president’s oath of office appears to mean very little to him,” Schiff said, “but the articles we put forward today will give us a chance to show that we will defend the Constitution and that our oath means something to us.”
Trump raged against Democrats on Twitter following the announcement, calling Schiff “totally corrupt” and denying again that he did anything wrong. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham dismissed the articles as “baseless.”
“It hurts the American people” Grisham said in a statement. “The President will address these false charges in the Senate and expects to be fully exonerated, because he did nothing wrong.”
This story has been updated to include comments from the White House.