WASHINGTON — House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump Tuesday, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress as they hurtled toward a vote to impeach him before Christmas.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced the draft charges as he stood with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other committee chairmen in the historic Rayburn Room in the Capitol Building.
“Today, in service to our duty to the Constitution and our country, the House Committee of Judiciary is charging the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, with committing high crimes and misdemeanors,” Nadler said.
The proposed articles in a nine-page resolution accuse Trump of soliciting the interference of Ukraine, a foreign government, to help him in the U.S. presidential election next year and of directing an unprecedented effort to defy the House investigation’s subpoenas.
“It is an impeachable offense for the president to exercise the powers of his public office to take an improper personal benefit,” Nadler said. “A president who declares himself above accountability,” he said, “is a president who sees himself as above the law. We must be clear. No one, not even the president, is above the law.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) stressed the sense of urgency in impeaching Trump, just 11 months before the next U.S. presidential election. “The argument, ‘Why don't you just wait,’ amounts to this: ‘Why don't you just let him cheat in one more election?’,” said Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
The Judiciary Committee will take up the articles of impeachment for debate, amendments and approval on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. The committee is poised to approve them in a party-line vote and send them to the House for a full vote.
If the Democratic majority in the House passes the articles, likely next week, the Senate will hold a trial early next year, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), making Trump the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.
“WITCH HUNT!” Trump tweeted after the Democrats’ announcement. Earlier, he tweeted that to impeach a president “who has done NOTHING wrong, is sheer Political Madness! #2020Election.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) angrily accused Pelosi and House Democrats of abusing their own power.
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham in a statement called the proposed articles of impeachment a “partisan, gratuitous, and pathetic attempt to overthrow the Trump Administration and the results of the 2016 election."
She continued, “The President will address these false charges in the Senate and expects to be fully exonerated, because he did nothing wrong.”
In the Senate, where Republicans have 53 votes, McConnell said, "I would be totally surprised if there were 67 senators who would remove the president."
Pelosi has pushed ahead with impeachment, appearing confident that the impeachment articles, despite opposition by at least two House Democrats and most likely all Republicans, still will pass and move to the Senate for a trial.
As she weighed the articles to propose Monday, Pelosi sought to balance the demands of her left flank with a third article of obstruction of justice based on the Mueller report and moderates' suggestion to hold a censure vote rather than full blown impeachment.
Pelosi settled on two narrowly drawn articles. The articles also generally mention the issues investigated by former special counsel Robert Mueller, noting Trump’s “previous invitations of foreign interference in United States elections” and “previous efforts to undermine United States Government investigations.”
The first article charges that Trump pressured newly elected Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, by withholding $391 million in security aid for an ally battling Russia and seeking a coveted White House visit.
“In doing so, President Trump used the powers of the presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process. He thus ignored and injured the interests of the Nation,” the article says.
The second article charges that Trump directed executive branch agencies and officials to not comply with subpoenas issued by the House in its impeachment investigation, assuming for himself the “sole Power of Impeachment” that the Constitution vests in the House.
“In the history of the Republic, no President has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors’,” the article says.
The articles call for Trump to be removed from office, and also to bar him from ever holding public office again.
The Republican-controlled House voted in October 1998 to begin impeachment proceedings. In January, Clinton had denied having a sexual relationship with a White House intern. In August, under questioning before a federal grand jury, Clinton testified that he engaged in an inappropriate relationship with the intern.
Clinton was impeached on Dec. 19, 1998, on the grounds of perjury to a grand jury and obstruction of justice. On Feb. 12, the Senate voted to acquit Clinton on both charges.
RICHARD M. NIXON
The House began an impeachment process against Nixon in February 1974. In July, the Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon — for obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress. The charges related primarily to Watergate — the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters and the Nixon administration's attempts to cover up its involvement.
Before the full House could vote on impeachment articles, an audio tape was released that made clear Nixon had a role in the cover-up. He resigned from office on Aug. 9, 1974.
Johnson's impeachment in 1868 was triggered by Johnson's attempt to fire Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who favored a tougher approach than Johnson toward the defeated South after the Civil War. The House voted to impeach Johnson on March 3, 1868, and on May 16, the Senate failed to convict Johnson on one of the 11 articles. After a 10-day recess, two more votes failed and the trial was adjourned.
The Associated Press