New York, Dec 5 : House of Representatives’ Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the impeachment to proceed on Thursday with the framing of charges of jeopardising national security against President Donald Trump for a trial in the Senate.
The historic announcement came after about two months of investigation by House of Representatives, making it only the third time in the 243-year history of the US that a President would be impeached.
“The President leaves us no choice but to act, because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit,” she said asking the House of Representatives committee leaders to proceed with the drafting of the Articles of Impeachment, which is a charge sheet for the Senate to try Trump.
“The President has engaged in abuse of power undermining our national security and jeopardising the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said in a Washington press conference.
She ended her announcement with an appeal to religion, saying, “So help me God,” after saying the Democrats were “prayerful”.
Before her announcement, Trump threw a challenge at her in a tweet: “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.”
Trump is relying on the Senate, where his party has a majority to throw out the charges and acquit him.
The Republicans will be able to call the witnesses blocked by the Democrats in the House panels’ hearings to testify.
Trump tweeted that they would call former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, and Pelosi.
He added that this “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”.
Pelosi’s announcement sets the Democrat-controlled House firmly on the path to early impeachment, with a vote likely before it adjourns for the Christmas vacation.
A Senate trial would then follow in January in an election year.
Only two Presidents, Andrew Johnson in the 19th century and Bill Clinton in the last have been impeached and both were acquitted by the Senate.
Pelosi had to make a firm statement because some members of her party in swing constituencies, which were Republican but moved to Democrats in last year’s elections, were apprehensive that the impeachment may work against them next year.
The nation’s polarisation is reflected in the impeachment issue with an almost even split in public opinion. According to the latest RealClear Politics aggregation of polls, there is 48.3 per cent support for impeachment and 44.6 per cent against, with a narrow spread of 3.7 per cent.
Mindful of this, 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 chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment.”
She likened Trump’s conduct to the late 18th century British monarch George III against whom Americans rose in revolt because he was considered above the law.
The founders of the US established the impeachment process to ensure that the President was not above the law like a king, she said.
The House Judicial Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday where four law professors testified on the constitutional and legal aspects of impeachment.
The three summoned by the Democrats made the case for Trump’s impeachment while the one called by the Republicans opposed it.
The Judicial Committee picked up the impeachment process from the Intelligence Committee, which delivered a 300-page report on Tuesday outlining the charges against Trump.
The Intelligence Committee accused him of placing “his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States.”
It said his “scheme subverted US foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favour of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential re-election campaign”.
At the heart of the charges is Trump asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “as a favour” to inquire into the dealings of former Vice President Biden and his son in Ukraine, and into alleged interference by that country in the 2016 elections.
Joe Biden also sought the removal of the prosecutor looking into the gas company, Burisma.
The Trump administration delayed military aid to Ukraine, which the Democrats say was done to force the country to launch the probes, but Republicans contend was done to ensure that there was no corruption.
Democrats say the request to investigate the Bidens was seeking foreign interference in US elections because the former Vice President is the front-runner for Democratic Party nomination to run against Trump.
The delay in aid, Democrats say, threatened US national security as it was beneficial to Russia.
Zelensky has denied that he felt he was under pressure from Trump to carry out the inquiries.
Republicans point out that the aid was released without Zelensky ordering the probes.
Hunter Biden who was removed from the Navy for alleged drug use and had no experience in the energy business was appointed to the board of a gas company with a monthly payment of $83,000 while the then Vice President was overseeing US relations with Ukraine.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)