House Democrats moved aggressively to draw up formal articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Thursday, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying he “leaves us no choice” but to act swiftly because he’s likely to corrupt the system again unless removed before next year’s election.
Congress must act, Pelosi said. “The democracy is what is at stake.”
“The president’s actions have seriously violated the Constitution,” she said in a somber address at the Capitol. “He is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections.”
Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong. He tweeted that the Democrats “have gone crazy.”
At the core of the impeachment probe is a July phone call with the president of Ukraine, in which Trump pressed the leader to investigate Democrats, including political rival Joe Biden. At the same time the White House was withholding military aid from Ukraine, an ally bordering an aggressive Russia.
Drafting articles of impeachment is a milestone moment, only the fourth time in U.S. history Congress has tried to remove a president, and it intensifies the rigid and polarizing partisanship of the Trump era that is consuming Washington and dividing the nation.
“Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Pelosi said.
Seemingly eager to fight, Trump tweeted that if Democrats “are going to impeach me, do it now, fast.” Though he has fought the House investigation, trying to bar current and former officials from testifying, he said he now wants to move on to a “fair trial” in the Senate.
Approval of articles of impeachment is considered likely in the Democratic-majority House. Conviction in a following trial in the Republican-dominated Senate seems very unlikely.
Once reluctant to pursue impeachment, warning it was too divisive for the country and needed to be bipartisan, Pelosi is now leading Congress into politically uncertain terrain for all sides just ahead of the election year.
Republican are standing lockstep with Trump, unswayed by arguments that his actions amount to wrongdoing, let alone impeachable offenses. That is leaving Democrats to go it alone in a campaign to consider removing the 45th president from office.
Russia and President Vladimir Putin benefited most from Trump’s actions toward Ukraine, she said.
“All roads lead to Putin. Understand that,” she declared at a morning news conference at the Capitol. “That was the a-ha moment.”
She spoke solemnly and calmly, but that changed when she was asked as she was leaving if she hates Trump.
Some liberal Democrats want to reach further into Trump’s actions, particularly regarding the findings from special counsel Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. That could produce an additional article of obstruction not only of Congress, but also of justice.
At the White House, press secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted that Pelosi and the Democrats “should be ashamed.”
House members are preparing to vote on the articles of impeachment in the Judiciary Committee, possibly as soon as next week. The committee set a Monday hearing to receive the Intelligence Committee’s report outlining the findings against the president.
The House is expecting a full vote by Christmas. The would send the issue to the Senate for a trial in the new year.