US House panel to hear impeachment presentations on Monday

Democrats are pushing ahead with a timetable that could see a vote on articles of impeachment before the end of the year

    US House panel to hear impeachment presentations on Monday
    Members of the House Judiciary Committee and journalists listening during testimony of constitutional scholars before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the impeachment Inquiry into US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

    The United States House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Monday to receive presentations on evidence in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, the panel's chairman announced on Thursday.

    Counsels representing both Democrats and Republicans from the Intelligence and Judiciary committees will make the presentations, Representative Jerrold Nadler, the Democrat who heads the Judiciary Committee, said.

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    The announcement comes after House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier on Thursday that she has directed the Judiciary Committee to draft articles of impeachment against Trump over his effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival, a historic step that sets up a fight over whether to remove him from office.

    "The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security by withholding military aid and (a) crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival," Pelosi said in a televised statement.

    Pelosi
    US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi taking questions about the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, US [Tom Brenner/Reuters] 

    "Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our Founders and our hearts full of love for America, today I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment," she added, referring to Nadler.

    The House Intelligence Committee this week submitted findings from its inquiry into Trump's push for Kyiv to launch an investigation related to former US Vice President Joe Biden, a top contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Trump also asked Ukraine to look into the discredited theory promoted by the president and his allies that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 US election.

    Democrats have accused Trump of abusing his power by withholding $391m in security aid to Ukraine - a US ally facing Russian aggression - to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to announce the investigations.

    Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing and called the impeachment investigation a hoax, responded to Pelosi's announcement in a tweet, saying "this will mean that beyond important and seldom used act of Impeachment will be used routinely to attack future Presidents. That is now what our Founders had in mind. The good thing is that the Republicans have NEVER been more united. We will win!"

    Panel
    Panel of constitutional scholars testifying during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the impeachment Inquiry into US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, US [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters] 

    Articles of impeachment represent formal charges against Trump and would originate in the Judiciary Committee before going to the full House. If the Democratic-led House passes articles of impeachment as expected, that would lead to a trial in the Senate on whether to convict Trump of those charges and remove him from office. Republicans control the Senate and have shown little support for Trump's removal.

    The House may vote by year's end on the formal impeachment charges, but Democrats, who control the chamber, say no decision has been made at this point on the specific charges. Those could include abuse of power, bribery, obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice.

    Judiciary panel Democrats on Wednesday said they may look beyond Trump's relations with Ukraine to include the president's earlier alleged efforts to impede former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into his 2016 campaign's relations with Russia, but they stopped short of saying that could trigger a separate charge.

    Impeachment history

    No president has ever been removed from office through impeachment, though Republican Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 after the House began the impeachment process in the Watergate corruption scandal. Two other presidents were impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.

    The last impeachment effort in the US came in 1998 when a Republican-led House passed articles of impeachment against Democratic President Bill Clinton - charges arising from a sexual relationship he had with a White House intern. The Senate then acquitted Clinton in 1999, leaving him in office.

    Bill Clinton
    US President Bill Clinton speaking to the nation following his acquittal by the Senate on impeachment charges [File: Reuters] 

    The other president who was impeached was Andrew Johnson; he was impeached by the House in 1868 - three years after the end of the US Civil War - but subsequently left in office by the Senate.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency