WASHINGTON — House Democratic leaders on Tuesday formally called for President Donald Trump’s removal from office, asserting that he “ignored and injured the interests of the nation” in two articles of impeachment that charged him with abusing his power and obstructing Congress.
In nine short pages, the draft articles accused Trump of carrying out a scheme “corruptly soliciting” election assistance from the government of Ukraine in the form of investigations that would smear his Democratic political rivals. To do so, Democrats charged, Trump used as leverage two “official acts”: the delivery of $391 million in security assistance and a White House meeting for Ukraine’s president.
“In all of this, President Trump abused the powers of the presidency by ignoring and injuring national security and other vital national interests to obtain an improper personal political benefit,” according to a draft of the first article. “He has also betrayed the nation by abusing his office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections.”
A second article charges that by ordering across-the-board defiance of House subpoenas for testimony and documents related to the Ukraine matter, Trump engaged in “unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance” that harmed the House’s constitutional rights.
Democrats unveiled them Tuesday before a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee as soon as Wednesday, where the panel will debate and vote on the charges. The panel could vote by Thursday to recommend them to the full House of Representatives for final approval. If the House follows through as expected next week, days before Christmas, Trump could stand trial in the Senate early in the new year.
Less than a year before the 2020 election, the action sets up a historic and highly partisan constitutional clash between Trump and congressional Democrats — one that is likely to have broad political implications for both parties and exacerbate the divisions of an already polarized nation.
But Democrats argued that the political calendar made their endeavor even more urgent, given the nature of the charges against the president, which they called part of a pattern of behavior that began when Trump welcomed Russia’s help in the 2016 election and would continue into 2020 if they did not act to stop it.
“The argument ‘why don’t you just wait’ amounts to this: ‘Why don’t you just let him cheat in one more election?’” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the Intelligence Committee who oversaw the House’s Ukraine investigation, said at a news conference steps from the Capitol dome to announce the charges. “Why not let him cheat just one more time? Why not let him have foreign help just one more time?”
In announcing a pair of charges that was narrowly focused on the Ukraine matter, Democrats made a careful political calculation designed to project unity and protect moderate lawmakers who face steep reelection challenges in conservative-leaning districts. They left out an article that had been the subject of internal debate among Democrats in recent weeks that would have charged Trump with obstruction of justice based on his attempts to thwart Robert Mueller’s investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russian election interference in 2016.
It had been championed by progressives including Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, but moderate lawmakers, many of them freshmen, had long signaled they would not support impeaching Trump based on Mueller’s report.
Trump responded angrily to Democrats’ announcement, taking to Twitter to proclaim their charge that he pressured Ukraine “ridiculous.”
The White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, accused Democrats of “manufacturing an impeachment inquiry and forcing unfounded accusations down the throats of the American people.” Their goal, she said, was to try to use the House’s impeachment power to weaken Trump’s chances of reelection.
“The announcement of two baseless articles of impeachment does not hurt the president, it hurts the American people, who expect their elected officials to work on their behalf to strengthen our nation,” Grisham said in a statement. “The president will address these false charges in the Senate and expects to be fully exonerated, because he did nothing wrong.”
The introduction of formal charges was a major milestone in a more than two-month impeachment inquiry and the long, slow-building partisan showdown that has defined Trump’s presidency.
Speaking earlier in Tuesday morning from a wood-paneled reception room just off the floor of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and leaders of six key committees said that Trump’s actions toward Ukraine, and his efforts to block Congress’ attempt to investigate, had left them no choice but to pursue one of the Constitution’s gravest remedies. The move will bring a sitting president to the brink of impeachment for only the fourth time in American history.
“Our president holds the ultimate public trust,” Nadler said. “When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the Constitution, he endangers our democracy, and he endangers our national security.”
While individual lawmakers will be able to propose amendments to the articles during this week’s debate and potentially force a committee vote on additional charges, they are not expected to substantively change.
With all but a handful of House Republicans firmly united behind Trump, the charges Democrats have settled on are all but certain to face monolithic Republican opposition. If that does not change, and Trump continues a defiant defense, the impeachment vote against him could take place strictly along party lines, save for one independent, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who has signaled he will join Democrats.
Rep. Peter T. King, a moderate New York Republican who is retiring and sometimes crosses the aisle to work with Democrats, echoed other members of his party when he decried the articles as “shameless, baseless abuse of congressional power by House Democrats.”
即将退休的众议员彼得·T·金(Peter T. King)是一名温和的纽约州共和党人，有时会跨越党派界限与民主党人合作。他附和了其他共和党人的意见，谴责这些条款是“众议院民主党人无耻、毫无根据地滥用国会权力”。
The impeachment effort would also face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it would take the support of two-thirds of the chamber to convict Trump and remove him from office — a highly unlikely scenario, particularly in an election year.