The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, announced on 05 December 2019 in the Capitol that she is instructing the House Judiciary Committee to proceed with articles of impeachment against US President Donald J. Trump. EPA-EFE/SHAWN THEW
Washington, December 5 (efe-epa).- The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, on Thursday formally instructed the Judiciary Committee to draw up articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.
The California Democrat said in a televised address from the Capitol that Trump had engaged in "abuse of power, undermining out national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections."
"Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt once again the election for his own benefit," Pelosi said.
"Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders, and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our (Judiciary Committee) chairman (Jerrold Nadler) to proceed with articles of impeachment."
The request by the US government's highest-ranking Democrat comes a day after the second phase of the lower house's impeachment inquiry got under way in the Judiciary Committee.
The House Intelligence Committee had conducted closed-door and public hearings in recent weeks aimed at determining whether Trump abused his office by threatening to withhold military aid to Ukraine in a bid to pressure that country's president to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and his son, Hunter.
On Tuesday, that committee - led by California Democrat Adam Schiff - approved a report stating that Trump had sought an investigation by Kiev into the Bidens and into alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US election with a view to improving his re-election prospects in 2020.
It also said the president had "engaged in categorical and unprecedented obstruction in order to cover up his misconduct."
The issue of quid pro quo - particularly as relates to a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky - is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, which was launched in response to a whistleblower complaint.
Trump had temporarily frozen nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine just ahead of the call, prompting suspicion that the request to investigate the Bidens was linked to the release of the funds.
Trump, who vehemently denies that any quid pro quo was at work and says he withheld the aid over frustration with what he considered to be an insufficient amount of monetary assistance provided to Ukraine by other countries, says the transcript shows he did nothing wrong.
The aid was eventually released on Sept. 11.
The White House in September released the transcript of that phone call, a document that shows that Trump asked Zelensky to look into Joe Biden's alleged interference with a purported probe of Hunter Biden's business dealings in Ukraine.
"(Joe) Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me," Trump is cited as saying on the transcript, referring to the former vice president's boast in 2018 that he threatened to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine two years earlier unless its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was fired.
Hunter began serving as a paid board member of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings in 2014 while his father was Barack Obama's vice president and point man on Ukraine.
Mykola Zlochevsky, Burisma's owner and a former Ukrainian government official who fled the country in 2014, has been the target of several corruption investigations, but Ukraine's current top prosecutor, Ruslan Riaboshapka, was quoted by Reuters as saying in October that he is not aware of any evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden related to his role as a Burisma board member between 2014 and April of this year.
Many Republicans say Biden was trying to shield his son from an investigation, but the former vice president and other Democrats say there was a push for Shokin's removal because he was viewed by the US and many other Western nations as soft on corruption.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee took up the impeachment matter and held its first hearing aimed at determining whether the accusations leveled against Trump constitute grounds for impeachment.
Once the articles of impeachment are drafted, they are expected to be approved by the Judiciary Committee and then put to a vote before the full House, where the Democrats have a comfortable 235-199 majority.
No date has been established for that vote, but it is expected to take place before the end of the year.
If - as expected - the House votes to impeach Trump, the Senate would hold a trial to decide whether to remove him from office.
It is considered highly unlikely that Trump would be forced out since a two-thirds vote would be needed and his Republican party has a 53-47 majority in the upper chamber.
On Thursday morning, Trump slammed the impeachment inquiry and indicated he is looking forward to a Senate trial.
"The Do Nothing Democrats had a historically bad day yesterday in the House. They have no Impeachment case and are demeaning our Country. But nothing matters to them, they have gone crazy. Therefore I say, if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business" the president tweeted.
"We will have Schiff, the Bidens, Pelosi and many more testify, and will reveal, for the first time, how corrupt our system really is. I was elected to "Clean the Swamp," and that's what I am doing!"
Trump is the fourth US president to face an impeachment inquiry.
Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton both were impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate, while Richard Nixon resigned before the lower house could vote on his impeachment.