Democrats Plan at Least Two Trump Impeachment Articles
(Bloomberg) -- House Democrats plan to unveil two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Tuesday -- one on abuse of power and the other involving obstruction of Congress, according to four people familiar with the proceedings.
The Democrats could add additional articles on obstruction, added the people, who were granted anonymity to discuss the matter.
The leaders of the committees running the impeachment will announce their next steps during a news conference scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday in Washington, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late Monday in a statement.
Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, and Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney will take part in the announcement, Pelosi said.
It became apparent on Monday that the Democrats are headed toward tightly drawn articles of impeachment.
The focus of a hearing by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday suggested less interest in pursuing a bribery charge or drawing heavily from material compiled by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference.
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The hearing, which featured the counsels for Republicans and Democrats presenting dueling interpretations of testimony from witnesses over weeks of public hearings, was a prelude to the expected drafting of articles of impeachment later this week.
That likely would lead to a party line vote of the full House the following week that would make Trump only the third U.S. president to be impeached. He is all but certain to be acquitted in the Senate, where Republicans hold a majority.
“The evidence is overwhelming that the president abused his power” by trying to get Ukraine to help his prospects for re-election by announcing an investigation into a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden,” said Barry Berke, counsel to House Judiciary Democrats.
He and Daniel Goldman, counsel for Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, also cited numerous instances of the Trump administration withholding documents and other evidence sought by Congress in connection with the Ukraine probe.
Monday’s hearing brought no new evidence to light to shift the positions staked out by partisans on each side of the impeachment question. But both parties got a chance to once again make their main points.
The panel’s Republican counsel, Steve Castor, reiterated one of the chief defenses of the president that’s been put forward by Trump allies: “The impeachment inquiry’s record is riddled with hearsay, presumptions and speculation.”
He accused Democrats of pursuing an “artificial and arbitrary political deadline” to overturn the 2016 election and impeach Trump’s before the Christmas holiday.
Goldman detailed what he called four “critical” findings from the investigation:
- Trump used the power of his office to pressure and induce the newly-elected president of Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential election for Trump’s personal and political benefit;
- In order to increase the pressure on Ukraine to announce the politically-motivated investigations that the president wanted, he withheld a coveted Oval Office meeting and $391 million of essential military assistance from Ukraine;
- Trump’s conduct undermined the U.S. election process and poses an imminent threat to our national security;
- Faced with the revelation of his pressure campaign against Ukraine, Trump directed an unprecedented effort to obstruct Congress’ impeachment inquiry into his conduct.
Castor accused Democrats of sustaining a months-long quest to find an issue on which to impeach Trump. After Mueller’s investigation didn’t deliver the results they wanted, he said Democrats now are focusing on Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, particularly his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“The record in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry does not show that President Trump abused the power of Congress or obstructed Congress,” Castor said. “To impeach a president who 63 million people voted for over eight lines in a call transcript is baloney.”
He argued that the call with Zelenskiy showed no evidence that Trump was trying to bribe or extort the Ukrainian president. “Simply put, the call is not the sinister mob shakedown some Democrats have described,” Castor said.
The president had a legitimate interest in examining whether Biden improperly exerted influence when he was vice president to protect his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, Castor said. There were valid questions about the company’s reputation for corruption as well as Biden’s pay of more than $50,000 a month while his father was vice president and led U.S. policy on Ukraine, he said.
In addition, Zelenskiy and other top Ukrainian officials weren’t aware of any delay in U.S. military aid until it was publicly reported in late August, Castor said, and therefore, “there was no leverage implied” between the aid and Trump’s request for investigations by Ukraine.
Republicans tried to raise objections to the proceedings and demanding a day of hearings on topics they want the committee to consider. Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler put off an answer, saying he’s considering the request but that wasn’t the purpose of the Monday hearing.
Both sides are making political as well as legal arguments with the 2020 election that will decide control of the White House and Congress less than a year away.
The weeks of testimony at public hearings conducted by Democrats haven’t budged public opinion on impeachment. Poll averages compiled by FiveThirtyEight and RealClear Politics both show Americans evenly divided with roughly 47% to 48% supporting impeachment and 44% to 45% opposing. What’s more, some individual polls have found that more than eight in 10 people say their minds are made up.
Democrats have argued that the president’s dealings with Ukraine is the most direct and clearest case to make against the president. Nadler said Sunday on NBC that he’s reserving judgment on whether to include evidence from the Mueller investigation and that Pelosi would have a role in that determination. The differences aren’t expected to hinder the quick timetable set by the Democrats.
The debate over what evidence to include coincided with the release on Monday of a long-awaited Justice Department Inspector General report on the genesis of the FBI’s Russia probe, which led to Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation.
The inspector general concluded that the Federal Bureau of Investigation acted properly when it began a broad investigation into whether then-candidate Trump or people around him conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. But it also cited 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in obtaining Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against a former Trump campaign aide.
Mueller’s report specifically said that the investigation didn’t exonerate Trump of obstructing justice. Some Democrats have argued that the Mueller report offers significant evidence that establishes a pattern of conduct by the president.
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