U.S. House votes to send Trump impeachment charges to Senate for trial

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic-led House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to send two formal charges against President Donald Trump to the Senate, clearing the way for only the third impeachment trial of a U.S. president to begin in earnest next week.

Lawmakers voted 228 to 193 to give the Senate, controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, the task of putting him on trial on charges of abuse of power for asking Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and of obstruction of Congress for blocking testimony and documents sought by Democratic lawmakers.

The vote was largely along party lines.

The Senate is expected to acquit Trump, keeping him in office, as none of its 53 Republicans has voiced support for removing him, a step that under the U.S. Constitution would require a two-thirds majority in the 100-seat chamber.

But Trump’s impeachment by the House last month will remain as a stain on his record and the televised trial in the Senate could be uncomfortable for him as he seeks re-election on Nov. 3, with Biden a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to challenge him.

“We are here today to cross a very important threshold in American history,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor before the vote.

Pelosi, who launched the impeachment inquiry in September after earlier resisting such a move centered on Trump’s actions related to Russian interference in the 2016 election, named a seven-member team of House Democrats to serve as prosecutors at the Senate trial. The House voted to approve them.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, was selected to head the team of House “managers.” The White House has yet to unveil its defense team. The trial will overseen by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has said opening statements in the trial were expected next Tuesday.

A pivotal event in Trump’s impeachment was a July 25 telephone call in which he asked Ukraine’s president to open a corruption investigation into Biden and his son, as well as a discredited theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

Democrats have called this an abuse of power because Trump asked a foreign government to interfere in a U.S. election for his own benefit at the expense of American national security. Biden is one of 12 candidates vying for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the presidential election.

Republicans have argued that Trump’s actions did not rise to the level of impeachable offenses. They have accused Democrats of using the Ukraine affair as a way to nullify Trump’s 2016 election victory.

No U.S. president has been removed as a direct result of impeachment. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 in the Watergate corruption scandal before the full House could vote on articles of impeachment, while Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached by the House, respectively in 1868 and 1998, but not convicted by the Senate.

Clinton’s trial lasted five weeks. If the Senate conducts the Trump trial along those lines, as McConnell has suggested, the televised Senate proceedings against the president would still be going on while the first nominating contests of the 2020 presidential election were underway in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Schiff, 59, spearheaded the House impeachment investigation and he is a frequent target of Trump attacks. Trump in December called Schiff, who served as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles for six years, “a deranged human being.”

Schiff urged Republicans to allow more evidence and witnesses at the trial.

“Americans overwhelmingly want a fair trial in the Senate, fair to the president and fair to the people. Senators must demand to see and hear the full evidence, including the documents and witnesses the president has blocked,” Schiff said in a statement.

Democrats want Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton to be called as a witness, which could prove damaging to Trump. Other impeachment witnesses have said Bolton was a vocal critic of the effort to pressure Ukraine.

The House managers include four men and three women, with two African American lawmakers and one Hispanic lawmaker. Other managers include Jerrold Nadler, 72, who crafted the two articles of impeachment against Trump as House Judiciary Committee chairman, and Val Demings, a former police chief of Orlando, Florida.

“The emphasis is on litigators, the emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom, the emphasis is making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our Constitution, to seek the truth for the American people,” Pelosi said in announcing the House managers.

The White House greeted the announcement of the House team with scorn, with White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham saying Trump “expects to be fully exonerated.”

“The naming of these managers does not change a single thing,” Grisham said in a statement. “President Trump has done nothing wrong.”

(Additional reporting by David Morgan, Doina Chiacu and Richard Cowan; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Will Dunham)

Factbox: Trump impeachment – what happens next?

(Reuters) – The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on Wednesday to send formal impeachment charges against President Donald Trump to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he would help acquit his fellow Republican at a trial.

Here is what can be expected in the coming days and weeks:

Jan. 15

The House will vote to formally transmit the charges against Trump to the Senate, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Democratic lawmakers, who represent the House majority, voted along party lines on Dec. 18 to impeach Trump over his dealings with Ukraine.

The resolution would also appoint a number of House Democrats as “managers,” who would prosecute Trump in the Senate on charges that he abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential contender for 2020, and that Trump obstructed efforts by Congress to uncover any misconduct.

Pelosi had delayed sending the charges to the Senate in an unsuccessful effort to get McConnell to agree to allow new witness testimony that could be damaging to Trump.

Jan. 16

A Wednesday vote would lead the Senate to take up impeachment on Thursday. The Senate will likely take several days to get through formalities before the trial begins in earnest.

The Senate would initially receive notification from the House that managers have been appointed and then adopt a resolution telling the House when it is ready to receive the managers to present the charges, known formally as articles of impeachment.

The House managers would then physically bring the articles of impeachment into the well of the Senate and present them. The Senate would inform the House when it is ready for the trial and organize for the proceedings.

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts would be sworn in to preside over the trial. Senators would be sworn in as jurors.

Week of Jan. 20

House managers would present their case against Trump, and the president’s legal team would respond, with senators sitting as jurors. McConnell has said the Senate will sit in session six days a week, taking only Sundays off.

Senators would then be given time to submit questions to each side.

Senators could also vote on whether to dismiss the charges against Trump.

McConnell has said that, once the charges are formally submitted to the Senate, he will back a resolution that would set initial rules for the trial but postpone a decision on whether to hear from witnesses.

McConnell has not yet published a draft of the resolution but he said it would be “very similar” to one adopted in January 1999 during the impeachment of Democratic former President Bill Clinton.

That resolution set deadlines for the prosecution and defense to submit “trial briefs” that laid out their cases in writing. The resolution also allocated 24 hours for representatives of each side to make oral arguments and set aside 16 hours for senators to ask them questions.

The Clinton resolution referenced by McConnell did not resolve whether witnesses would be called. A follow-up resolution allowing for three witnesses to testify in videotaped depositions passed later along a party-line vote.

Late January to early February

Democrats will push to hear from witnesses during the trial. If McConnell’s resolution on initial trial rules is adopted, as expected, senators would likely vote after the trial has started on whether to introduce witness testimony sought by the Democrats. Republicans could seek to call witnesses of their own as well.

The Senate now has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who usually vote with the Democrats. That means four Republicans would need to cross party lines and join Democrats in requesting witness testimony.

The trial could continue into February, when Iowa and New Hampshire hold the first nominating contests for the 2020 presidential election. That could pose logistical problems for the four senators seeking the Democratic nomination: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Jan Wolfe; editing by Andy Sullivan and Grant McCool)

McConnell says U.S. Senate to move forward unless House sends impeachment articles

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate will move forward with its own legislative agenda next week, unless it receives articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday.

“There’s real business for the American people that the United States Senate needs to complete. If the speaker continues to refuse to take her own accusations to trial, the Senate will move forward next week with the business of our people,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Pelosi has effectively delayed Trump’s trial by refusing to send the Senate the two articles of impeachment approved by the House last month, as Democrats have pressed McConnell to guarantee that the trial will include testimony from top Trump administration officials. McConnell has resisted that effort.

The House charged Trump with abusing his power for personal gain in connection with his effort to pressure Ukraine to announce a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in November’s presidential election.

It also charged the Republican president with obstructing Congress by directing administration officials and agencies not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Bernadette Baum)

With Trump impeachment trial on hold, Senate to focus on ‘ordinary business’

With Trump impeachment trial on hold, Senate to focus on ‘ordinary business’
By Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. senators, who had expected just weeks ago to be turning their attention to an impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, will kick off the week focusing on “ordinary business,” with lawmakers still at loggerheads over trial rules.

Democrats have been pressing for witnesses to be called, but Trump’s fellow Republicans have held firm that any decision on testimony must wait until after opening statements are heard.

Complicating the calculus, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi – the top Democrat in Congress – has yet to send the House-approved impeachment articles to the Senate, putting a question mark over the schedule for a trial and buying time for Democrats to try to build the case for witnesses.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who Pelosi accuses of carrying water for the president, has said a trial cannot begin until the charges are formally sent to the chamber, although another senior Republican called on Sunday for the rules to be changed if Pelosi does not act soon.

“We’re not going to let Nancy Pelosi use the rules of the Senate to her advantage,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, told Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

Without the articles in hand, McConnell said on Friday that senators would focus on “ordinary business” – in Monday’s case, a nomination for a new head of the Small Business Administration.

The earliest the House could take any action would be Tuesday when it reconvenes, but top Democrats have given no sign they are set to move this week.

“I don’t think it’s going to be indefinite,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday when asked about the delay in transmitting the impeachment articles.

“I don’t think that’s at all the desire, motivation here. The desire is to get a commitment from the Senate that they’re going to have a fair trial.”

The Democratic-led House has charged Trump with abusing his power for personal gain by asking Ukraine to announce a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in November’s presidential election.

It also charged the president with obstructing Congress by directing administration officials and agencies not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.

Trump says he did nothing wrong and has dismissed his impeachment as a partisan bid to undo his 2016 election win.

The Senate, which is controlled by Republicans 53-47, is unlikely to vote to find the president guilty and remove him from office, an act that would take a two-thirds majority.

But Democrats have been hopeful they could persuade a few Republicans to side with them on their push for witnesses, which would require only a simple majority and could unearth evidence damaging to Trump.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Rochard Cowan; Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney)

Coming out of the shadows: the U.S. chief justice who will preside over Trump’s trial

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts will be a central figure in the ongoing drama of the Donald Trump presidency in the coming months. He is due to preside over a Senate impeachment trial, while the Supreme Court he leads will rule on a titanic clash over the president’s attempts to keep his financial records secret.

The expected impeachment trial will focus on accusations that Trump abused his power by asking Ukraine to investigate former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden. The Democratic-led House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment on Dec. 18, paving the way for the trial in the Republican-led Senate.

The normally reserved and mild-mannered Roberts, 64, will have the largely symbolic role of presiding officer, with senators casting the crucial votes.

But it is in the marble-lined corridors of the Supreme Court across the street from the Capitol Building, hidden from the TV cameras, where Roberts wields real power. Known for his cautious approach to major cases, he holds one of just nine votes that will decide by the end of June whether Trump’s financial records can be disclosed to Democratic-led congressional committees and a New York prosecutor.

The court’s rulings in those cases – on the power of Congress and local prosecutors to investigate a sitting president – will set precedents that may affect not just Trump but also future presidents.

The impeachment trial will be an unusual and potentially uncomfortable period for the low-key Roberts, who prefers to fly under the radar even while he has navigated the conservative-majority court in a rightward direction over the last decade and a half.

“My sense is that the chief doesn’t want to make himself the story,” said Sarah Binder, a scholar at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution.

Roberts declined to comment. During a rare public appearance in New York in September, Roberts appeared concerned about the hyperpartisan politics of Washington under Trump.

“When you live in a polarized political environment, people tend to see everything in those terms. That’s not how we at the court function,” he said.

Those who know Roberts, including former law clerks, say that he would take his role seriously and, as a history buff, he is likely reading up on the previous impeachment trials of Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

WASHINGTON INSIDER

Roberts, a conservative appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, has a reputation in Washington as a traditional conservative and a strong defender of the Supreme Court as an independent branch of government.

In a frictionless rise to prominence, he served in the administration of Republican President Ronald Reagan before becoming one of the most prominent Supreme Court advocates in town. Bush appointed him to the federal appeals court in Washington in 2003 before tapping him for the chief justice post two years later.

Roberts is often viewed as an incrementalist in his judicial philosophy, conscious of the fact that the Supreme Court risks its legitimacy if its 5-4 conservative majority is characterized as being too aggressive in moving the law to the right.

He has nonetheless voted consistently with his conservative colleagues on such issues as gay rights, abortion, religious liberty and gun rights. But in 2012, he broke ranks and cast the deciding vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Earlier this year, he again sided with the court’s liberals as the court ruled 5-4 against the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Roberts clashed with Trump more directly in November 2018 when he took the unusual step of issuing a statement defending the federal judiciary after Trump repeatedly criticized judges who had ruled against his administration.

The cases concerning Trump’s financial records, with rulings due by the end of June, puts the sober Roberts and bombastic Trump on another collision course.

Legal experts have said Trump, who unlike previous presidents has refused to release his tax returns, is making broad assertions of presidential power that could place new limits on the ability of Congress to enforce subpoenas seeking information about the president.

If it is a close call, Roberts could cast the deciding vote.

In the Senate trial set to take place in January, Roberts’ role as presiding officer is limited mainly to keeping the process on track. Roberts could, however, be asked to rule on whether certain witnesses should be called.

If a majority of senators disagree with a ruling he makes, they can vote to overturn his decision.

In the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999, Chief Justice William Rehnquist had “relatively little to do,” said Neil Richards, who was present as one of Rehnquist’s law clerks and is now a professor at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

“I think Chief Justice Roberts is likely to approach his role… the way he has approached his judicial career to date: Doing his best to be impartial, doing his best to preserve the dignity of his judicial office,” Richards added.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley. Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe and Andrew Chung, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

U.S. House impeachment of Trump sets stage for trial in Senate

U.S. House impeachment of Trump sets stage for trial in Senate
By Amanda Becker and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The impeachment of President Donald Trump in the U.S. House of Representatives on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress sets the stage for a historic trial next month in the Republican-controlled Senate on whether he should be removed from office.

But it was unclear on Thursday how or when that trial would play out after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she might delay sending over the articles of impeachment to the Senate in order to pressure that chamber to conduct what she viewed as a fair trial.

Trump said the ball was now in the Senate’s court.

“Now the Do Nothing Party want to Do Nothing with the Articles & not deliver them to the Senate, but it’s Senate’s call!” Trump said on Twitter. “If the Do Nothing Democrats decide, in their great wisdom, not to show up, they would lose by Default!”

 

Representative Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, said on MSNBC that Democrats would like the Senate to first approve a $1.4 trillion spending plan and a trade agreement with Canada and Mexico before turning to impeachment.

He said Democrats were also concerned that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell may not allow a full trial. McConnell has predicted there is “no chance” his chamber will convict Trump.

“It’s very hard to believe that Mitch McConnell can raise his right hand and pledge to be impartial,” Hoyer said.

The mostly party-line votes on Wednesday in the Democratic-led House came after long hours of bitter debate that reflected the partisan tensions in a divided America, and made Trump the third U.S. president to be impeached.

Republicans argued that Democrats were using a rigged process to nullify the 2016 election and influence Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, while Democrats said Trump’s actions in pressuring Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential contender, were a threat to democracy.

Trump is certain to face more friendly terrain during a trial in the 100-member Senate, where a vote to remove him would require a two-thirds majority. That means at least 20 Republicans would have to join Democrats in voting against Trump – and none have indicated they will.

Pelosi said after the vote she would wait to name the House managers, who will prosecute the case, until she knew more about the Senate trial procedures. She did not specify when she would send the impeachment articles to the Senate.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz said it would not bother him if Pelosi did not send over the impeachment articles.

“My attitude is OK, throw us in that briar patch, don’t send them, that’s all right,” he said on Fox News. “We actually have work to do.”

Trump, 73, is accused of abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden, a former U.S. vice president, as well as a discredited theory that Democrats conspired with Ukraine to meddle in the 2016 election.

Democrats said Trump held back $391 million in security aid intended to combat Russia-backed separatists and a coveted White House meeting for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as leverage to coerce Kiev into interfering in the 2020 election by smearing Biden.

Trump is also accused of obstruction of Congress by directing administration officials and agencies not to comply with lawful House subpoenas for testimony and documents related to impeachment.

Trump, who is seeking another four-year term in the November 2020 presidential election, has denied wrongdoing and called the impeachment inquiry launched by Pelosi in September a “witch hunt.”

At a raucous rally for his re-election in Battle Creek, Michigan, as the House voted, Trump said the impeachment would be a “mark of shame” for Democrats and Pelosi, and cost them in the 2020 election.

“This lawless, partisan impeachment is a political suicide march for the Democrat Party,” Trump said. “They’re the ones who should be impeached, every one of them.”

DEEP DIVISIONS

Trump’s election has polarized the United States, dividing families and friends and making it more difficult for politicians in Washington to find middle ground as they try to confront pressing challenges like the rise of China and climate change.

The impeachment vote comes ahead of Trump’s re-election campaign, which will pit him against the winner among a field of Democratic contenders, including Biden, who have repeatedly criticized Trump’s conduct in office and promised to make it a key issue.

Reuters/Ipsos polls show that while most Democrats wanted to see him impeached, most Republicans did not. Televised hearings last month that were meant to build public support for impeachment appear to have pushed the two sides further apart.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Richard Cowan, David Morgan and Lisa Lambert; Writing by John Whitesides and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Peter Cooney)

Top Senate Republican blasts House impeachment effort against Trump

By David Morgan and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday signaled opposition to a Democratic request to call new witnesses in a Senate trial expected next month on whether to remove President Donald Trump from office, saying he would not allow a “fishing expedition” after a “slapdash” House impeachment process.

Lawmakers from both parties were set to grapple on Tuesday over the rules of engagement for a historic vote set for Wednesday in the Democratic-led House of Representatives, where Trump is likely to become the third U.S. president to be impeached.

If the House approves articles of impeachment – formal charges – as expected, it would set the stage for a trial in the Senate, controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans – on whether to convict him and remove him from office. No president has ever been removed from office via the impeachment process set out in the U.S. Constitution.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has said he wants the trial to consider documents and hear testimony from four witnesses, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, saying testimony could sway Republicans in favor of impeachment.

Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell took aim at Schumer and Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that spearheaded the impeachment inquiry launched in September.

“So now, the Senate Democratic leader would apparently like our chamber to do House Democrats’ homework for them. And he wants to volunteer the Senate’s time and energy on a fishing expedition to see whether his own ideas could make Chairman Schiff’s sloppy work more persuasive than Chairman Schiff himself bothered to make it,” McConnell said.

“From everything we can tell, House Democrats’ slapdash impeachment inquiry has failed to come anywhere near – anywhere near – the bar for impeaching a duly elected president, let alone removing him for the first time in American history,” McConnell added.

McConnell said he also hoped to meet with Schumer very soon to discuss how to proceed.

Trump remained in attack mode a day before his expected impeachment in the Democratic-led House, referring to the process in a Twitter post as “this whole Democrat Scam” and calling himself “your all time favorite President.”

“Don’t worry, I have done nothing wrong. Actually, they have!” Trump wrote.

In what is expected to be a marathon meeting, the House Rules Committee will decide how much time to set aside for debate on Wednesday before lawmakers vote on two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his dealings with Ukraine.

Representative Jerry Nadler – the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which approved the articles of impeachment last week – will miss the Rules Committee meeting because of a family emergency, and Representative Jamie Raskin will represent the Democrats in his place, a congressional aide said. Nadler is expected to be back at the Capitol on Wednesday.

The panel’s top Republican, Representative Doug Collins, also will testify before the Rules Committee.

The looming vote promises to bring a raucous, partisan conclusion to a months-long impeachment inquiry against Trump that has bitterly divided the American public as voters prepare for next year’s presidential and congressional elections.

The House is expected to approve the impeachment articles largely along partisan lines. The action then moves to the Republican-controlled Senate, where the effort to remove Trump from office faces long odds.

House Democrats accuse Trump of abusing his power by asking Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic contender to oppose him in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. He is also accused of obstructing Congress’ investigation into the matter.

Trump has denied wrongdoing.

Lawmakers are expected to offer amendments at the Rules Committee meeting, which could run for 12 hours or more depending on how many of the House’s 431 sitting legislators decide to show up and speak.

In the end, the committee will set the rules for the floor debate that will precede the impeachment vote.

The White House, which has not cooperated in the impeachment inquiry in the House, also signaled opposition to Schumer’s requests for the Senate trial.

“Why in the world should we be asked to fill in the blanks that the Democrats created? They created these huge holes and canyons in the presentation of their case. It’s not up to us to help them fill in the blanks and make their case,” presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters.

The final House vote is expected to fall largely along party lines. Several Democrats from districts that backed Trump in 2016 said on Monday they would vote to impeach him.

Trump will be on friendlier terrain in the Senate, which is expected to consider the charges in January.

Republicans hold 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats, and at least 20 of them would have to vote to convict Trump in order to clear the two-thirds majority required to remove Trump from office. None have indicated they may do so.

McConnell has suggested the chamber could move quickly to a vote without hearing from witnesses, after House Democrats and the White House make their presentations.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Patricia Zengerle; additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Patricia Zengerle and Makini Brice; editing by Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis)

Explainer: The case for Trump’s impeachment – and the case against it

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives could vote as soon as Wednesday to formally charge President Donald Trump, a Republican, with “high crimes and misdemeanors,” making him only the third U.S. president in history to be impeached.

That sets up a trial in January in the Republican-run Senate, where he is expected to be acquitted.

Here is the Democrats’ case for removing Trump from office, as well as the Republican counter-argument.

THE CHARGES

In their articles of impeachment,  Democrats charge that Trump abused his power as president by pressuring a foreign government, Ukraine’s, to help him win re-election. They accuse the president of endangering the U.S. Constitution, jeopardizing national security and undermining the integrity of the 2020 election.

At the heart of their impeachment case is testimony by current and former officials alleging an extraordinary effort that went outside official channels to pressure Ukraine to announce a corruption investigation into former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, a potential political rival in 2020.

The allegations by Trump allies against Biden – that he used his position as vice president to force the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor to stop an investigation of an energy company on which his son Hunter Biden was a director – have been discredited. Neither Trump nor his allies have provided evidence to support them and Biden has denied them.

Trump pressed Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a July 25 phone call to work with his attorney general, William Barr, and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to investigate the Bidens and also a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election.

Democrats allege that the evidence they have gathered in their inquiry shows Trump withheld a high-profile White House meeting and nearly $400 million in security aid to pressure Zelenskiy to announce the investigations. Trump ultimately released the money after news of the delay became public, although the White House meeting has yet to take place.

Democrats also charge Trump with obstructing Congress by preventing members of his administration from cooperating with the probe, in defiance of the Constitution.

“If the president can first abuse his power and then stonewall all congressional requests for information, Congress cannot fulfill its duty to act as a check and balance against the executive – and the president becomes a dictator,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said last Wednesday.

The Democrats’ case rests in large part on a rough transcript of the July 25 call, in which Trump asks Zelenskiy to “do us a favor” and work with Barr and Giuliani in carrying out the investigations he sought. Current and former U.S. officials testified that Trump directed them to work with Giuliani on Ukraine issues, despite the fact that the former New York mayor was a private citizen.

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland provided some of the most damaging testimony.  He said he spoke directly with Trump about the effort to pressure Ukraine and said other top administration officials were involved. He testified that Ukrainian officials understood they would have to announce the investigations in order to get the withheld security aid.

REPUBLICANS CRY FOUL

Trump says he has done nothing wrong, and his Republican allies in Congress agree with him. None are expected to vote to impeach him this week.

“You can’t make your case against the president because nothing happened,” Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said last week.

Republicans have coalesced around the argument that the Democrats’ case amounts to hearsay because it mostly relies on the testimony of officials who did not deal directly with Trump. (Democrats say Trump’s refusal to cooperate has prevented them from getting the testimony of other officials directly involved in the matter – a central pillar of their obstruction of Congress charge.)

Republicans say no actual exchange of favors took place, because Zelenskiy ultimately did get the delayed aid and the meeting with Trump that he sought – albeit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly – even though the Ukrainian president did not agree to the investigations that Trump wanted.

They argue that Democrats are subverting the will of voters who elected Trump president in 2016 simply because they do not like his policies or his personality, turning the impeachment process into a partisan tool.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan, editing by Ross Colvin and Jonathan Oatis)

As the U.S. House marches toward impeachment, Senate questions next move

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As the U.S. House of Representatives moves closer to impeaching President Donald Trump, larger questions loom in the Senate, where Trump’s Republican allies may not give him the extended trial he would like.

Democrats who control the House unveiled formal charges on Tuesday that accuse Trump of abusing his power by trying to force Ukraine to investigate a political rival and obstructing Congress when lawmakers tried to look into the matter.

The House Judiciary Committee is due to begin considering those charges at 7 p.m. on Wednesday (0000 GMT) and is expected to approve them on Thursday. A vote by the full chamber next week is likely to make Trump the third U.S. president to be impeached by the House.

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Democrats had to take action because Trump had endangered the U.S. Constitution, jeopardized national security and undermined the integrity of the 2020 election.

The articles of impeachment do not draw on other, more contentious aspects of the Republican president’s tenure, such as his efforts to impede former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Democratic lawmakers who represent more conservative districts have argued that the focus should stay on Ukraine.

“I think you’ll see virtually all the Democrats support these articles,” said Representative David Cicilline, who chairs a House Judiciary subcommittee.

Republicans say Democrats have yet to prove that Trump tried to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July 25 telephone call to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

“It’s just as likely the president had good reasons to say what he did on the phone call as nefarious reasons that the Democrats think,” said Republican Representative Debbie Lesko.

Trump has maintained that he did nothing wrong and that Democrats are trying to undo his victory in the 2016 election.

He will be on friendlier terrain in the Republican-controlled Senate, which will likely consider the matter in January in a trial presided over by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts.

QUICK TRIAL?

Democrats are not expected to pick up the 20 Republican votes they need at a minimum in the Senate to drive Trump from office with a two-thirds super majority. But Republicans have yet to decide how to handle the matter.

Trump wants a full trial, featuring testimony from witnesses, including Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others, that would flesh out the case for and against impeachment and eat up weeks of time just as the Democratic Party holds its first presidential nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire in February.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested on Tuesday that his chamber may opt for a quicker trial that would allow lawmakers to return to their regular business, however.

McConnell will need a majority of the Senate’s 100 members to agree to either plan. That could put a handful of Republican moderates, like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, in the position of deciding how much time the chamber would devote to the proceedings.

McConnell said on the Senate floor on Wednesday the trial would be the “first order of business in January” if the House approves the articles of impeachment in December as expected.

During Democratic President Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, no witnesses testified on the Senate floor. Instead, videotaped depositions were conducted with just a few witnesses, which senators screened behind closed doors. Clinton was acquitted in the Senate on charges arising from his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, David Morgan and Susan Cornwell; Writing by Sonya Hepinstall; Editing by Peter Henderson, Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis)

Explainer: How impeachment works and why Trump is unlikely to be removed

By Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday instructed the House Judiciary Committee to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump for pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival.

What happens next and why Trump is unlikely to be removed from office are both explained here.

WHY IMPEACHMENT?

The founders of the United States feared presidents abusing their powers, so they included in the Constitution a process for removing one from office.

The president, under the Constitution, can be removed from office for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

High crimes and misdemeanors have historically encompassed corruption and abuses of the public trust, as opposed to indictable violations of criminal statutes.

Former President Gerald Ford, while in Congress, famously said: “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”

No president has ever been removed as a direct result of impeachment. One, Richard Nixon, resigned before he could be removed. Two, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were impeached by the House but not convicted by the Senate.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Impeachment begins in the House, the lower chamber, which debates and votes on whether to bring charges against the president via approval of an impeachment resolution, or “articles of impeachment,” by a simple majority of the body’s members.

The Constitution gives House leaders wide latitude in deciding how to conduct impeachment proceedings, legal experts said.

The House Intelligence Committee has conducted an investigation into whether Trump abused his power to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations that would benefit him politically, holding weeks of closed-door testimony and televised hearings before issuing a formal evidence report.

The Judiciary panel will use the report to consider formal charges that could form the basis of a full House impeachment vote by the end of December.

If the House approves articles of impeachment, a trial is then held in the Senate. House members act as the prosecutors; the senators as jurors; the chief justice of the United States presides. Historically, the president has been allowed to have defense lawyers call witnesses and request documents.

CAN THE SENATE REFUSE TO HOLD A TRIAL?

There is debate about whether the Constitution requires a Senate trial. But Senate rules in effect require a trial, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has publicly stated that he will allow one to proceed.

Republicans could seek to amend those rules, but such a move is politically risky and considered unlikely, legal experts said.

WHAT ABOUT OPENING A TRIAL AND QUICKLY ENDING IT?

The Senate rules allow members to file, before the conclusion of the trial, motions to dismiss the charges against the president. If such a motion passes by a simple majority the impeachment proceedings effectively end.

Clinton’s Senate impeachment trial, which did not end in a conviction, lasted five weeks. Halfway through the proceedings, a Democratic senator introduced a motion to dismiss, which was voted down.

WHAT’S THE PARTY BREAKDOWN IN CONGRESS?

Democrats control the House. The House comprises 431 members at present, 233 of whom are Democrats. As a result, the Democrats could impeach the Republican Trump with no Republican support.

In 1998, when Republicans had a House majority, the chamber voted largely along party lines to impeach Clinton, a Democrat.

The Senate now has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who usually vote with the Democrats. Conviction and removal of a president would require a two-thirds majority. A conviction seems unlikely. Should all 100 senators vote, at least 20 Republicans and all the Democrats and independents would have to vote against him.

WHO BECOMES PRESIDENT IF TRUMP IS REMOVED?

In the unlikely event the Senate convicted Trump, Vice President Mike Pence would become president for the remainder of Trump’s term, which ends on Jan. 20, 2021.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe, editing by Ross Colvin and Howard Goller)