WASHINGTON — After months of investigation, House Democrats unveiled articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Tuesday, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The first article focuses on Trump's dealings with Ukraine, arguing that he should be removed from office for holding up needed US military aid for the country in exchange for investigations into former vice president Joe Biden and his family. "It is an impeachable offense for the president to exercise the powers of his public office to obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interest," Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said at a press conference announcing the articles Tuesday morning.
"Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election. He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage," the articles read.
"In so doing, President Trump used the powers of the Presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process. He thus ignored and injured the interests of the Nation."
The second articles includes charges related to the administration's stonewalling of Congress's investigation into the president's actions. "President Trump engaged in unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry. ... We must be clear, no one, not even the president, is above the law," Nadler said.
"Donald J. Trump has directed the unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives pursuant to its 'sole Power of Impeachment," the articles read.
"President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States," the articles conclude.
The full House is expected to vote on the articles next week before leaving for its holiday break, likely setting up an impeachment trial in the Senate in January. If the articles pass, as expected, Trump will be the third president in US history to be impeached. Next, the Senate will conduct a full trial with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts presiding. Two-thirds of members will need to vote to remove Trump from office, an unlikely event given that Republicans control the chamber.
The Democratic caucus has united almost uniformly around impeachment. Just two members of the party — Reps. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Collin Peterson of Minnesota — voted against formalizing the inquiry. Van Drew has said he will not vote with his party to impeach. But Democrats need only 218 votes to pass the articles of impeachment through the House and send them to the Senate.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham called the impeachment charges “baseless” in a statement. “The President will address these false charges in the Senate and expects to be fully exonerated, because he did nothing wrong. Ultimately, Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats will have to answer to their constituents for manufacturing an impeachment inquiry and forcing unfounded accusations down the throats of the American people,” she said.
Some members of Congress pushed for additional articles of impeachment related to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report about Russian interference in the 2016 election, but ultimately Democrats chose to stick to Ukraine. Democratic leaders did not answer a question from a reporter as they left the room about the choice not to include articles related to Mueller’s investigation in the charges.
Democrats were reportedly still debating the inclusion of charges related to Mueller on Monday night, just hours before the unveiling of the articles. More than half the Democratic caucus came out in support of an impeachment inquiry before the whistleblower complaint about Ukraine (which set off the eventual inquiry) was even filed, and progressives have pushed for the inclusion of earlier abuses of power as well as the president’s racism.
“Some people may want to try and charge everything the president has done wrong over the course of his career, and obviously we can’t do that,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, a longtime impeachment supporter who sits on the Judiciary and Oversight committees, said in an interview with BuzzFeed News last month. “Some people may want to try to blank out the whole pattern and system of corruption to just focus on one event. That might be placing things at too microscopic a level. We have to try to tell a comprehensive story faithfully while at the same time zeroing in on the criminal charges where we think the evidence is decisive and irrefutable.”
The Judiciary Committee is set to mark up the articles later this week, preparing them for a vote in the full House.
Republicans have argued that the House is moving too quickly, a criticism Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff addressed forcefully at the press conference.
“People should understand what that argument really means,” he said. “The argument ‘Why don’t you just wait?’ amounts to this: Why don’t you just let him cheat in one more election? Why not let him cheat just one more time? Why not let him have foreign help just one more time? That is what that argument amounts to.”
Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale slammed the announcement in a statement Tuesday morning, noting that Pelosi had said for months that she would hold off on impeachment, arguing it was "too divisive," before the Ukraine news came to light.
"Well, it is divisive and only the Democrats are pushing it, but she’s doing it anyway. Americans don’t agree with this rank partisanship, but Democrats are putting on this political theater because they don’t have a viable candidate for 2020 and they know it," Parscale said.
Democrats released the articles on Tuesday, just two and a half months after Pelosi formally announced an impeachment inquiry. Since then, Democrats have interviewed more than a dozen witnesses, both behind closed doors and in public hearings led by the House Intelligence Committee. Last week, Intelligence Committee Democrats released a report of their findings, which found "overwhelming" evidence of misconduct by Trump, and sent it on to the House Judiciary Committee to write the articles of impeachment.
Pelosi announced the articles at a press conference Tuesday morning flanked by the chairs of the six committees that have investigated various aspects of Trump's presidency: Nadler, Schiff, Carolyn Maloney of the Oversight Committee, Maxine Waters of the Financial Resources Committee, Eliot Engel of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Richard Neal of the Ways and Means Committee.