House Democrats announced Tuesday morning that they are introducing two articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump: one for abuse of power, and one for obstruction of Congress.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler announced the charges Tuesday morning, after his team had labored through the weekend drafting the articles. “The House Committee on the Judiciary is introducing two articles of impeachment charging the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, with high crimes and misdemeanors,” Nadler said soberly, flanked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
The historic announcement renders it all but certain that Trump will become the third President in U.S. history to be impeached. The timing for when that may happen is still uncertain, and Democratic leaders provided scant details, aside from Nadler’s acknowledgement that his committee will debate the articles “later this week.” But it seems increasingly likely that a House vote could take place before Christmas; Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday he “presumed” the House will hold an impeachment vote before breaking for the holidays.
Pelosi set the tone at the top of the press conference, calling it a “solemn day” as she stood with her chairs under a portrait of George Washington. “The first order of business for members of Congress is the solemn act to take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” she said prior to Nadler’s remarks.
The charge of abuse of power was widely expected following the months-long inquiry into whether President Trump leveraged foreign assistance to Ukraine in order to coerce the country’s new administration to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Democrats on the House Intelligence committee argued in their report summarizing the probe’s evidence last week that the 100 hours of depositions they collected from seventeen witnesses solidified that this was a clear cut case.
“Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election,” the articles state. “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 second article of obstruction of Congress stems from the President’s response to the inquiry. By ordering members of his administration to defy Congressional subpoenas, the articles explain, Trump “assumed to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the ‘sole Power of Impeachment’ vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.”
While the articles note that the charges are “consistent” with Trump’s prior behavior, there is no explicit mention of Trump’s conduct during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election – a win for members of the caucus with more vulnerable re-election prospects.
There was widespread speculation about whether the articles would include Trump’s alleged attempts to obstruct that probe, with multiple Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee advocating for that. But the calculation was complicated by the political landscape ahead of next year’s elections. Democrats were trying to discern the best configuration for their first-term members facing tough re-elections and their Senate colleagues for a trial next year, according to a senior Democratic official. The official added that the votes would be there in the House, but urged colleagues not to make it difficult for moderates to support articles. “It certainly helps to prevent the party from walking straight into a GOP talking point,” said one senior aide associated with the moderate wing of the party.
That’s not to say that Republicans in the White House and Congress are not pushing ahead with their attacks with 2020 in mind. “They have no case for impeachment. No bribery. No quid pro quo. No abuse of power,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise Tweeted on Tuesday, characterizing the articles as “baseless” and “pathetic.”
Brad Parscale, Trump’s reelection campaign manager, reiterated those sentiments. “For months, Nancy Pelosi said she wouldn’t move forward on impeachment because it was too divisive and it needed bipartisan support. Well, it is divisive and only the Democrats are pushing it, but she’s doing it anyway,” Parscale said in a statement. “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.”
–With reporting by Tessa Berenson/Washington