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WASHINGTON — Abuse of power. Obstruction of Congress.
Those are the two articles of impeachment Democrats unveiled Tuesday, setting up the framework for what will be only the third impeachment of a president in U.S. history.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the heads of the six House committees with jurisdiction over President Trump’s actions toward Ukraine announced the pair of impeachment articles at a press conference in Washington Tuesday morning.
“Today, in service to our duty to the Constitution and to our country, the House Judiciary committee is introducing two articles of impeachment charging the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, of committing high crimes and misdemeanors,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said.
Democrats’ decision to go with two narrowly focused articles seems designed to pin impeachment on Trump’s specific behavior toward Ukraine rather than argue a pattern of obstructing justice during his time as president. Some Democrats had argued that the evidence laid out in FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation should have been included. But Democrats in leadership decided to focus on their clearest argument: that Trump’s attempts to get Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election by investigating his political opponent, and his refusal to cooperate with House investigators, mean he should be removed from office.
“The evidence of the president’s misconduct is overwhelming and uncontested,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said at the press conference. “And when the president got caught, he committed his second impeachable act: obstruction of Congress of the very ability to make sure that no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States.”
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote to pass the two articles of impeachment on Thursday ahead of a full vote to impeach Trump on the House floor sometime next week. That vote is expected to pass largely along party lines, setting up a Senate trial on whether Trump should be removed from office for his actions in January.
Democrats’ core argument is that Trump tried to coerce Ukraine’s leaders into announcing investigations that would hurt his most likely 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and bolster a conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that meddled in the 2016 election. That began with Trump withholding a coveted White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and escalated into the Trump administration withholding nearly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid as Trump-appointed government officials pushed Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens and 2016.
That argument is bolstered by a bevy of facts, including the White House’s own publicly released rough transcript of a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Zelensky to “do us a favor though” and investigate Biden, his son Hunter (who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company) and the 2016 election. Roughly a dozen top government officials who testified to the House Intelligence Committee have corroborated this claim, while none have seriously disputed this fact pattern.
Republicans, and some Democrats, have argued that House leaders are needlessly rushing along the process to impeach Trump for political reasons. That’s true in some respects: Democrats might be able to get access to more witnesses information if they waited. But Schiff fired back at that argument, saying that waiting would only encourage Trump to obstruct more and let him further interfere in the 2020 election.
“The argument ‘Why don’t you just wait?’ amounts to this: ‘Why don’t you just let him cheat in one more election?” he said.
Cover image: From left, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calf., Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conduct a news conference on the testimony of former special counsel Robert Mueller on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)