Before a row of four American flags in the Rayburn Room at the Capitol, the Democrats announced the next steps in the impeachment process, which was launched in September with an inquiry into President Donald Trump’s effort to get the president of Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter.
Broadcast and cable networks covered the announcement, as dozens of reporters and photographers packed into the Rayburn Room, notable for its Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said that they would be charging Trump “with committing high crimes and misdemeanors.”
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“Our president holds the ultimate public trust,” Nadler said. “When he betrays that trust and puts himself before the country, he endangers the Constitution, he endangers the Constitution, and he endangers our national security.”
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He sounded the alarm over the president’s conduct, and framed Trump’s actions as an effort to get a foreign country to interfere with the next election to serve his own personal benefit.
“The integrity of our next election is at risk from a president who has already sought foreign interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections and who consistently puts himself above country,” Nadler said. “That’s why we must act now.”
The articles — read them here — alleges that Trump engaged in “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.”
“President Trump also sought to pressure the government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official United States government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations.”
He said that the House Judiciary Committee would meet later this week to take up the articles.
The obstruction articles focus on Trump’s directives to White House and administration officials to defy congressional subpoenas.
Republicans have repeatedly claimed that Pelosi and other top Democrats were trying to speed impeachment through the House, refusing to wait until courts rule on whether Trump administration figures have to comply with a bevy of subpoenas.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) said that waiting for court adjudication would take many months – and suggested that stonewalling was part of a strategy on the part of the Trump White House to delay impeachment until after the election.
“The argument of, ‘Why don’t you just wait?’ amounts to this: Why don’t you just let him cheat in the next election?” Schiff said.
Pelosi and the committee chairs did not take questions. She called the moment a “somber” occasion, but also is determined to show that the House leadership is not delaying other work as it pursues impeachment.
An hour after the announcement, Pelosi held a press conference to announce a breakthrough in negotiations over the USMCA, the update to the North American Free Trade Agreement that is one of Trump’s signature legislative goals this year. Pelosi was asked about the timing of the announcement, which, ironically, will give Trump a victory for one of his chief legislative priorities.
“It is just because we got to the end of a session,” Pelosi said. “Some decisions have to be made.”
Less than an hour after the articles of impeachment were unveiled, Trump tweeted, “Nadler just said that I ‘pressured Ukraine to interfere in our 2020 Election.’ Ridiculous, and he knows that is not true. Both the President & Foreign Minister of Ukraine said, many times, that there ‘WAS NO PRESSURE.’ Nadler and the Dems know this, but refuse to acknowledge!” He also tweeted that the impeachment effort was a “witch hunt.”
He also again attacked Schiff, a frequent target. “Shifty Schiff, a totally corrupt politician, made up a horrible and fraudulent statement, read it to Congress, and said those words came from me. He got caught, was very embarrassed, yet nothing happened to him for committing this fraud. He’ll eventually have to answer for this!” Trump was referring to the way that Schiff summarized portions of the transcript of the president’s July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. Schiff, though, gave his interpretation of Trump’s intent, characterizing the call akin to a shakedown from a mob boss.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) slammed Democrats for pursuing the impeachment process on what he sees as a paucity of evidence. He also claimed that Pelosi “relented” on the USMCA because they needed a legislative accomplishment with the unpopularity of impeachment.
The broadcast and cable coverage reflected the historic moment, but also the challenge facing Democrats in showing that impeachment is a necessary step and not a political tactic.
On ABC News, Terry Moran said that Pelosi “knows the Democrats, some members, have been eager to impeach this president from the moment he got into office.”
“One of the challenges is for the Democrats to persuade people this time it’s different,” Moran said. “One of the ways you can tell she is insistent that it is a solemn process, it is constitutional and it is a duty the Democrats are doing, not a weapon in their partisan war, so they lay out the rationale, they lay out the evidence and they make the case constitutionally.”
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