House Judiciary Committee has unveiled charges against President Donald Trump, a key move in impeaching him.
The first article revealed by committee chief Jerry Nadler accuses President Trump of abuse of power and the second accuses him of obstructing Congress.
The Republican president is said to have withheld aid to Ukraine for domestic political reasons.
Donald Trump has urged the Senate to try him “sooner than later”.
He insists he has done “nothing wrong” and has dismissed the impeachment process as “madness”.
If the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives Judiciary Committee votes to approve the articles later this week, they will then be submitted to the lower chamber for a full vote.
If, in turn, the articles are approved by the House, an impeachment trial in the Republican-held Senate will take place, possibly early in January.
The impeachment process was launched after an anonymous whistleblower complained to Congress in September about a July phone call by Donald Trump to the president of Ukraine.
President Trump is alleged to have committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” (a phrase from the US Constitution) on two counts outlined by Jerry Nadler:
- The first allegation is that he exercised the powers of his public office to “obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interest”, by allegedly putting pressure on Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential election;
- The second allegation is that “when he was caught, when the House investigated and opened an impeachment inquiry, President Trump engaged in unprecedented categorical and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry”, thereby obstructing Congress.
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President Trump “sees himself as above the law”, Jerry Nadler said.
“We must be clear, no-one, not even the president, is above the law.”
In the July phone call to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Trump appeared to tie US military assistance for Ukraine to its launching of investigations that could help him politically.
In return for those investigations, Democrats say President Trump offered two bargaining chips – $400 million of military aid that had already been allocated by Congress, and a White House meeting for President.
Democrats say this pressure on a vulnerable US ally constitutes an abuse of power.
The first investigation President Trump wanted from Ukraine was into former VP Joe Biden, his main Democratic challenger, and his son Hunter. Hunter Biden joined the board of a Ukrainian energy company when his father was President Barack Obama’s deputy.
The second Trump demand was that Ukraine should try to corroborate a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the last US presidential election. This theory has been widely debunked, and US intelligence agencies are unanimous in saying Moscow was behind the hacking of Democratic Party emails in 2016.
President Trump railed at the announcement of the charges, declaring again on Twitter that it was a “witch hunt”.