WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote as soon as this week to recommend formal impeachment charges against President Donald Trump ahead of a full vote by the Democratic-led House of Representatives possibly next week.
If impeached, as expected, Trump would face a trial in the Senate, which is controlled by his own Republican Party.
Here are some charges Trump might face.
Democrats launched an investigation in September focused on Trump’s request for Ukraine to conduct investigations that might benefit him politically and harm former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination in the November 2020 presidential election.
Trump administration officials told public congressional hearings that the White House held up nearly $400 million in security aid to Ukraine to pressure its president to announce the investigations Trump wanted.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi framed Trump’s conduct as bribery during a Nov. 14 news conference after weeks of rank-and-file Democrats referring to Trump’s conduct as a “quid pro quo,” Latin for an exchange of favors.
“The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections,” Pelosi said. “That’s bribery.”
There is an obvious appeal to framing Trump’s conduct as bribery, legal experts say: Not only is it an easy concept to grasp, but it is one of two impeachable offenses specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.
The Constitution states that a president can be impeached for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Barry Berke, a lawyer for the Judiciary Committee’s Democrats, on Monday signaled a potential retreat from describing Trump’s conduct as bribery. During a public hearing, Berke instead repeatedly referred to Trump’s behavior as an abuse of power.
Some legal experts have argued that rather than charge Trump with bribery based on his Ukraine dealings, House Democrats should frame his conduct more broadly as abuse of power like Berke did on Monday.
Political bribery is a narrowly defined crime under U.S. law, and Trump’s fellow Republicans are likely to argue that Democrats cannot prove that Trump committed that offense.
Many legal experts have said impeachment is a political process, not a court proceeding, and that House Democrats are not required to adopt the definition of bribery in the U.S. criminal code.
House Democrats have argued that Trump obstructed their impeachment investigation by refusing to provide documents and instructing top advisers and government officials not to testify.
The White House has argued that the Constitution does not require senior presidential advisers to appear for compelled testimony before Congress. A judge rejected that argument on Nov. 25 in a dispute over a subpoena issued to former White House counsel Don McGahn.
Some House Democrats have sought to focus narrowly on Ukraine; others have argued that Trump should also be impeached based on a 448-page report completed in March by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller detailed Russian interference in the 2016 election, through a campaign of hacking and propaganda, as well as contacts between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.
Mueller’s report, released in redacted form in April, cited about 10 instances in which Trump acted to impede the investigation.
Mueller did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice, though Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, afterward decided that the president had not committed obstruction.
Both Trump and Russia deny meddling in that election.
Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Ross Colvin and Cynthia Osterman