Democrats unveiled two impeachment charges against US President Donald Trump on Tuesday, accusing him of abuse of power and obstruction in pressuring Ukraine to help him attack his 2020 election rivals.
The charges, if approved by the House of Representatives in a vote expected next week, would make Trump only the third US president to be impeached and placed on trial in the Senate.
“Our president holds the ultimate public trust,” said Jerry Nadler, a Democrat from New York and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
“When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the constitution, he endangers our democracy and he endangers our national security,” he said. “Our next election is at risk… That is why we must act now.”
Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who as head of the House Intelligence Committee oversaw the investigation, said Trump’s “continuing abuse of power” had left Democrats no choice.
“The evidence of the president’s conduct is overwhelming and uncontested,” he said.
Nadler said the Judiciary Committee would meet later in the week to consider the articles of impeachment.
The Democrat-led committee is expected to pass them and forward them to the full House next week. The Democratic majority will almost certainly vote them through, paving the way for a Senate trial, likely in January.
At the announcement Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, flanked by the two committee chairmen who led the impeachment inquiry, called the announcement a “solemn act.” Ahead of the morning announcement, Pelosi said in a tweet that the House was taking steps to “defend the democracy.”
The charges unveiled Tuesday stem from Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to announce investigations of his political rivals, including Democrat Joe Biden, as he withheld vitally needed military aid to the country.
Trump, who has declined to mount a defense in the impeachment proceedings, tweeted Tuesday, “To Impeach a President who has proven through results, including producing perhaps the strongest economy in our country’s history, to have one of the most successful presidencies ever, and most importantly, who has done NOTHING wrong, is sheer Political Madness! #2020Election,” he wrote on Twitter.
In drafting the articles of impeachment, Pelosi is facing a legal and political challenge of balancing the views of her Democratic majority while hitting the Constitution’s bar of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Some liberal lawmakers wanted more expansive charges encompassing the findings from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Centrist Democrats preferred to keep the impeachment articles more focused on Trump’s actions toward Ukraine.
Asked at a Monday gathering of The Wall Street Journal CEO Council if she had enough votes to impeach the Republican president, Pelosi said she would let House lawmakers vote their conscience.
“On an issue like this, we don’t count the votes. People will just make their voices known on it. I haven’t counted votes, nor will I.”
Democrat Eliot Engel of New York, a 30-year veteran of the House and influential chairman of its Foreign Affairs Committee, said Monday Democrats were largely united on the issue.
“I think there’s a lot of agreement,” he told reporters on Monday after leaving a meeting of committee chairs in Pelosi’s Congressional office. “A lot of us believe that what happened with Ukraine especially is not something we can just close our eyes to.”
Meanwhile, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee that conducted the impeachment inquiry, Doug Collins of Georgia, has accused Democrats of fast-tracking the process on a “clock and a calendar” ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
“They can’t get over the fact that Donald Trump is the president of the United States, and they don’t have a candidate that can beat him,” Collins said on Monday.