Democrats in the US House of Representatives announced impeachment charges against President Donald Trump on Tuesday, making him the fourth president in US history to face a formal effort to remove him from office.
The impeachment charges accuse Trump of “betraying” the country by abusing power in an effort to pressure Ukraine to probe a political rival and then obstructing Congress’ investigation into the scandal, Reuters reports.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler told reporters that Democrats had to take action because Trump had endangered the US Constitution, jeopardized national security and undermined the integrity of the 2020 election.
“No one, not even the president, is above the law,” Nadler said at a news conference. His panel could take up the charges as soon as Wednesday ahead of the full House vote.
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham accused Democrats of engaging in a “baseless and partisan” attempt to undo Trump’s victory in the 2016 election.
The Democratic-controlled House is almost certain to vote to impeach the president as soon as next week, setting up a trial in the Republican-led Senate early next year, shortly before the presidential election kicks off with primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The effort to force Trump out of the White House, however, faces long odds of success. At least 20 Senate Republicans would have to vote to remove him from office, and none so far have indicated they are considering such a move, Reuters noted.
Trump is the fourth US president to face impeachment.
Democratic President Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 for lying about a sexual relationship he had with a White House intern, but he was acquitted in the Senate. Republican President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before he was impeached over his involvement in the Watergate scandal. Democratic President Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 but not convicted in the Senate.
Democrats have moved rapidly since launching their inquiry in late September after a whistleblower complaint about a July 25 telephone call in which Trump sought help from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender in the Democratic race to challenge Trump in next November’s election.
The abuse of power charge accuses Trump of using nearly US$400 million in US security aid and a possible White House meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart to solicit Ukraine to publicly announce the investigations of Biden and a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US election.
The obstruction charge accuses the president of defying and impeding the House’s efforts to investigate the scandal, adding that Trump would remain a threat to the US Constitution if he remains in office.
Republicans argue Trump did nothing improper in his call with Zelenskiy and say there is no direct evidence he withheld aid or a White House meeting in exchange for a favor.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a leading figure in Clinton’s impeachment, warned that Democrats were setting a dangerous precedent.
“Future Congresses will inevitably make impeachment a political tool to be used anytime a President of the opposing party occupies the White House,” he said in a statement.
Representative Adam Schiff, the Democrat who spearheaded the investigation in the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump had given Democrats no choice.
“The evidence of the president’s misconduct is overwhelming and uncontested,” Schiff said.
The White House has refused to participate in the impeachment inquiry so far, but is expected to mount a vigorous defense in the Senate. It is unclear whether Trump himself will testify.
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