House Democrats on Tuesday announced plans to bring articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.
Trump will be charged with one count of obstruction of Congress and one count of abuse of power.
The charges stem from a phone call between Trump and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In that call, Trump asks for “a favor” regarding an Internet server reportedly containing missing emails authored by 2016 Democratic nominee and former Trump opponent Hillary Clinton and an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
At the time, Trump was withholding nearly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine, which is presently at war with Russia.
“Today, in service to our duty to the Constitution and to our country, the House Committee on the Judiciary is introducing two articles of impeachment, charging the President of the United States Donald J. Trump with committing high crimes and misdemeanors,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler.
“Witch Hunt,” Trump tweeted about an honor after the charges were announced.
Rep. Adam Schiff, who represents Glendale, Burbank and part of Pasadena, chairs the House Intelligence Committee and called the evidence against the president “overwhelming and uncontested.”
“Ben Franklin said we have a Republic, if we can keep it,” Schiff said on Tuesday morning. “The President and his men say you can’t keep it and Americans should just get over it. Americans don’t get to decide American elections any more, not by themselves, not without foreign help.”
Democrats charge that Trump abused the power of his office by pressuring Zelensky in a phone to dig up political dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden.
An anonymous whistleblower spoke to his supervisor about the call and later spoke to members of Schiff’s staff.
During two sets of hearings by the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, GOP House members did not attempt to defend Trump’s actions but instead focused on the procedures of the hearings, investigating Hunter Biden and identifying the whistleblower.
Trump’s impeachment was almost a foregone conclusion from the time he was sworn in. Less than a month into his term, he was under investigation for colluding with Russian President Vladimir Putin to turn the 2016 election in his direction.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller could not connect Trump to collusion with Russians meddling in the election, but listed 10 possible counts of obstruction of justice.
Democratic voters began calling for Trump to be impeached after Mueller’s report was released, and eventually Mueller was called to testify on his report.
The day after Mueller testified before Congress, and with the nation already divided, Trump made the call on July 25 to Zelensky and asked for an investigation into Hunter Biden and Burisma, the natural gas company for which the younger Biden served as a board member for $50,000 a month.
According to the Constitution, the president can be impeached for “treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
High crimes and misdemeanors are not defined in the Constitution, leaving it up to Congress to decide what qualifies in any particular case. Historians and legal scholars say it’s generally understood to mean a serious abuse of the public trust.
Only two US presidents, Andrew Johnson of Tennessee and Bill Clinton of Arkansas, have been impeached. Neither was removed from office.
Johnson was impeached in 1868, after he fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, an Abraham Lincoln appointee who opposed Johnson’s approach to Reconstruction of the South. Johnson vetoed every Reconstruction bill offering aid to freed African-American slaves, including the Civil Rights Act of 1866.
House Republicans, led by members Charles Sumner of Massachusetts and Thadeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, said Johnson’s firing violated the Tenure of Office Act, a law passed one year earlier that said the Senate must approve the president’s dismissal of a cabinet member. Johnson faced 11 articles of impeachment.
Only three of the impeachment articles were voted on by the Senate — two about the appointment of Stanton’s replacement, and one about insulting and disrupting Congress. The Senate acquitted Johnson by a single vote on each article.
In 1973, three articles of impeachment were drafted against President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal for obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress. Nixon resigned before a formal vote on the House floor after being told there were enough votes to remove him from office.
In Dec. 1998, Clinton became the second president to face impeachment proceedings.
Clinton’s road to impeachment began during a deposition in a lawsuit brought on by Paula Jones, who accused Clinton of sexual misconduct.
During the deposition, Clinton falsely claimed that he did not have a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. A report by special prosecutor Kenneth Starr later revealed that Clinton tried to cover up his affair with Lewinsky, and had pressured his secretary Betty Currie to repeat his denials.
Clinton was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. At the Senate trial, the Republican majority failed to get a two-thirds majority vote on either charge.
Both Nixon and Clinton were in their second terms when they faced impeachment. Johnson ascended to the presidency after Lincoln was assassinated. He lost the nomination in 1868 and remained in office until early1869.
In Trump’s case, the House Judiciary Committee was expected to vote on the articles of impeachment leveled against the president later this week, and the full House is expected to vote on impeaching the president next week. The vote is expected to be decided along party lines, which all but guarantees Trump’s impeachment due to the Democratic majority in the House.
“The speaker ordered Chairman Nadler to draft articles of impeachment,” wrote House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Twitter. “But let’s not pretend this hasn’t been their plan from the start. Democrats have wanted to impeach the president since before he took office — facts be damned.”
If the impeachment vote passes, the trial will be held in the Senate, with US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts presiding.
Roberts could force several key witnesses to appear at the trial that Trump has told not to testify. They include: Acting White House Chief of Staff, former National Security Advisor John Bolton and White House counsel Don McGahn, who previously chose to ignore subpoenas issued with regard to the investigation. Democrats have gone to court seeking to force McGahn to testify, and a judge ruled last week that McGahn must comply with the subpoena. However, McGahn is expected to appeal the ruling.
Schiff said on Tuesday that Democrats cannot afford to wait for a court to rule on witnesses and documents that the Trump administration is blocking from Congress.
“The argument why don’t you just wait amounts to this: why don’t you just let him cheat in one more election?” Schiff said as the counts were announced. “Despite everything we have uncovered, the president’s misconduct continues to this day, unapologetically and right now.”