The US President has been charged with abuse of power and obstruction of congress in relation to a July 25 phone call with Ukraine.
The House Judiciary Committee today formally approved the two articles of impeachment against Mr Trump. The vote passed along party lines, 23-17.
The entire House will now be tasked with deciding whether or not Mr Trump committed “high crimes and misdemeanours” when it votes on the articles next week. The full House needs to approve the articles to officially impeach the president. If that happens, he will go to the Senate for a 2020 trial where it will be decided if he should be removed from office.
Mr Trump is the fourth president in US history to face the prospect of impeachment for alleged misconduct in office.
Earlier this week, the Democrats announced the charges against Mr Trump over an alleged abuse of power for asking Ukraine to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden while allegedly withholding aid as leverage and obstructing Congress for stonewalling the House’s investigation.
The House Judiciary Committee argued through a marathon session on Thursday ahead of voting to send impeachment charges against Mr Trump to the full House.
Republicans appeared unwavering in their opposition to expelling Mr Trump.
But Speaker Nancy Pelosi sounded confident Democrats would have the votes to impeach the President next week but said it was up to individual politicians to weigh up the evidence and decide for themselves.
“The fact is we take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Ms Pelosi told reporters. “No one is above the law; the President will be held accountable for his abuse of power and his obstruction of Congress.”
Mr Trump, apparently watching the live proceedings on television, tweeted his criticism of Democrats and describing their comments as inaccurate.
“Very sad,” Mr Trump tweeted.
The charges and subsequent inquiry are based on a July 25 phone call in which Mr Trump asked Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelensky to carry out two investigations – which could allegedly benefit him politically – including one targeting Mr Biden.
During the call, the President asked Mr Zelensky to “do us a favour” and investigate the origins of the Russia probe, which by July had already ended, Mr Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company.
Democrats say Mr Trump’s use of the phrase “I would like you to do us a favour, though” when discussing military equipment with Mr Zelensky was proof of a quid pro quo.
But Mr Trump said that’s not what “us” referred to.
“Read the Transcripts! ‘us’ is a reference to USA, not me!,” Mr Trump wrote in a tweet.
The requests came immediately after the Ukrainian President thanked Mr Trump for America’s defence support and said his country was “almost ready” to buy more US military technology.
In formal articles announced this week, the Democrats said Mr Trump then obstructed Congress by ordering current and former officials to defy House subpoenas for testimony and by blocking access to documents.
Mr Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and described the inquiry as a “witch hunt”.
The impeachment hearings entered the second phase of the inquiry after Ms Pelosi last week announced that the President “leaves us no choice but to act”.
The Speaker said investigators had uncovered more than sufficient evidence to show that Mr Trump abused his office for political gain, violating the President’s oath to the Constitution and warranting removal.
“Our democracy is what is at stake,” Ms Pelosi said.
She said she was authorising Mr Nadler to proceed with drafting articles of impeachment “sadly but with confidence and humility”.
“The President’s actions have seriously violated the Constitution,” Ms Pelosi said.
Mr Trump last week goaded the Democrats to move quickly.
“If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate and so that our country can get back to business,” he wrote.
“We will have Schiff, the Bidens, Pelosi and many more testify and will reveal, for the first time, how corrupt our system really is.”
.@SpeakerPelosi & the Democrats should be ashamed. @realDonaldTrump has done nothing but lead our country – resulting in a booming economy, more jobs & a stronger military, to name just a few of his major accomplishments. 🇺🇸 We look forward to a fair trial in the Senate.
— Stephanie Grisham (@PressSec) December 5, 2019
Donald Mr Trump’s campaign manager yesterday boasted about the impact the impeachment inquiry has had on the US President’s popularity, saying it’s “ignited a flame” for their base.
Brad Parscale said the drama in Washington had helped them fundraise faster, fill up rallies easier and generate more support for Mr Trump.
“I’ve always said I’d rather not have the President impeached,” Mr Parscale told reporters today. “I think the President did nothing wrong. But let’s just talk about statistically what occurred. First, and five minutes, afterwards was fundraising. This lit up our base, lit up the people that are supporters of the President. They’re frustrated, they’re upset. That motivates voters.”
Later, Mr Parscale said “any time (Mr Trump is) attacked, any time people try to lessen that he’s a legitimate President in any way – his voters fight back”.
“And I think that that is a motivation, I think it’s a huge miscalculation by them and I think they have no choice but it is a success metric,” he added.
Earlier, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham released a statement criticising Ms Pelosi’s decision to move forward.
“This impeachment process … moves this country toward the most partisan and illegitimate subversion of the Constitution in our history,” Ms Grisham said.
Counsellor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, also addressed the issue, saying the White House was “very ready” for a Senate trial.
HOW WE GOT HERE
The latest hearings followed the release of a report detailing the findings of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation last month.
The report alleges the probe into Mr Trump “uncovered a months-long effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election”. He is also accused of attempting to withhold a White House meeting and $400 million in military aid from the Ukraine as part of an alleged bribe for political gain.
The House Intelligence Committee voted to send its landmark report on Mr Trump’s conduct to the Judiciary Committee, which then wrote the articles of impeachment against the President.
At its heart, the 300-page report produced by chairman Adam Schiff’s panel lays out the case that Mr Trump misused the power of his office for personal political gain and obstructed Congress by stonewalling the proceedings like “no other president in history”.
The report does not offer a judgment on whether Mr Trump’s actions stemming from a July 25 phone call with Ukraine rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanours” warranting impeachment. The entire House will decide that question in coming days when it votes on the articles. That would send them to the Senate for a 2020 trial.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that he would be “totally surprised” if there were the necessary 67 votes in the chamber to convict Mr Trump and signalled options for a swift trial. He said no decision had been made about whether to call witnesses.
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