WASHINGTON: House Democrats unveiled articles of impeachment Tuesday accusing President Donald Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, setting up a constitutional clash between the two branches of government that has only happened three times before.
The accusations closely track the Intelligence Committee’s findings about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. The panel found that Trump withheld a meeting and military aid from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky while pressuring his counterpart to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
The first article alleges Trump abused his power by urging the investigation. The second article alleges Trump obstructed Congress by refusing to cooperate with the investigation, including defying subpoenas for documents and testimony.
Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said it was an abuse of power for Trump to obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interest. Nadler said Trump’s stonewalling and “indiscriminate defiance” of the investigation represented obstruction of Congress.
“A president who declares himself above accountability, above the American people, and above Congress’s power of impeachment which is meant to protect against threats to our democratic institutions is a president who sees himself as above the law,” Nadler said. “We must be clear: No one, not even the president is above the law.”
But Trump has called the inquiry a partisan “witch hunt” and a “hoax.” Trump met Zelensky and released the $391 million in aid without an announcement of
investigations. Congressional Republicans contend Trump had the authority to suspend aid and set foreign policy. Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was pushing forward with impeachment despite it being divisive.
“Americans don’t agree with this rank partisanship, but Democrats are putting on this political theater because they don’t have a viable candidate for 2020 and they know it,” Parscale said.
The announcement sets up Judiciary Committee votes on whether to recommend each article to the full House. If the House adopts the articles, the Senate would hold a trial in early 2020 to decide whether to remove Trump from office. But he isn’t expected to be ousted because while Democrats control the House, Republicans control the Senate.
Only two presidents have been impeached – Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 – but neither was removed. Former President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 after the Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment, but before a full House vote. The release of articles came a day after the Judiciary Committee held a hearing with lawyers on that panel and the Intelligence Committee who summarized the findings of their investigations. Intelligence released a 300-page report about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine on Dec. 4. The Judiciary Committee released a 55-page report about former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“We stand here today because the president’s continuing abuse of his power has left us no choice,” said Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif. “In so doing, he undermined our national security and jeopardized the integrity of our next election,” Schiff added. Pelosi was flanked at the announcement by the six chairmen who investigated Trump: Nadler; Schiff; Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.; Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.; and Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass.
The leaders spoke in the ornate Rayburn Room, just off the House floor, in front of four American flags as the shutters from dozens of cameras went off. Dozens of journalists, and even staff at the Capitol, crowded into the ornate room adorned with two large chandeliers. The lawmakers answered no questions. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Oversight and Reform Committee, called the articles the product of a baseless attempt to upend the will of the people less than 11 months before the next election. “Democrats remain in denial about the results of the 2016 election and our country’s undeniable successes under President Trump’s leadership,” Jordan said. “The Democrats’ impeachment effort is a miscarriage of the House of Representatives’ constitutional obligations and marks a shameful chapter in American history.”