WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives were expected to unveil two articles of impeachment against Republican President Donald Trump on Tuesday, a senior Democratic aide said, setting the stage for a possible vote this week on impeachment.
The House aide spoke on condition of anonymity on Monday night and declined to give any details.
Democrats were expected to draft articles of impeachment on abuse of power and on obstruction of Congress, the aide told Reuters. The Washington Post first reported the expected articles, citing three unidentified officials.
Democratic committee leaders met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the last scheduled impeachment hearing concluded on Monday evening.
Pelosi’s office announced later that the House Committee officials will hold a press conference on Tuesday morning to announce the next steps in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump is accused of pressuring Ukraine to initiate a probe of a Democratic political rival and then of obstructing Congress’ efforts to investigate his actions.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said Democratic lawmakers planned to make an announcement on articles of impeachment on Tuesday morning. He would not elaborate as he left Pelosi’s office.
Jerrold Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, closed the nine-hour hearing on Monday with a condemnation of Trump’s actions soliciting help from Ukraine against Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential rival Joe Biden.
Democrats described Trump’s actions as a “clear and present danger” to national security and the upcoming U.S. election.
“The facts are clear. The danger to our democracy is clear and our duty is clear,” Nadler said in his closing statement.
The Judiciary panel could vote this week on whether to send formal charges, known as articles of impeachment, to the full Democratic-led House.
If the House approves the articles, as expected, the Republican-controlled Senate would hold a trial to decide whether to remove the president from office. A conviction is considered unlikely.
Trump denies wrongdoing and has called the impeachment probe a hoax.
Monday’s hearing was punctuated by shouting and recriminations from Trump’s fellow Republicans, unhappy with the process they said was unfair.
Republicans accused Democrats of embarking on a politically driven mission to oust Trump from office without direct evidence he had abused his power, obstructed Congress or committed other impeachable offenses.
“They’re desperate to have an impeachment vote on this president,” said Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel.
Republicans said there was no proof Trump improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden.
They also argued there was no first-hand evidence Trump withheld $391 million in military aid or a White House meeting to get his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, as well as a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
Republicans repeatedly called for testimony by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, whose panel led the investigation and held five days of hearings last month. Nadler rejected Republicans’ request to call Schiff as a witness, so Republicans put up a poster with his picture on a milk carton under the word, “Missing.”
The White House has refused to participate in the hearings in the House because it says the process is unfair. Nadler denied Republicans’ request for eight witnesses to appear before the inquiry, saying they were either not necessary for Monday’s hearing or beyond the scope of the inquiry.
‘HELP OUR COUNTRY’
Democrats accuse Trump of abusing his power by withholding aid to Ukraine, vulnerable as it faced Russian aggression, as well as dangling a possible White House meeting to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch the probes.
They appeared to back away from basing one of the articles of impeachment on former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The report identified multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia but did not establish there was collusion to sway the election.
Daniel Goldman, the majority counsel for the House Intelligence Committee, picked up on Democrats’ argument that leaving Trump in office would hurt the country.
“Trump’s persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security,” Goldman said during Monday’s hearing.
Stephen Castor, a Republican lawyer, said facts that Democrats have presented as damning could be explained in other ways.
He told the panel that Trump asked Zelenskiy for the investigations in a July 25 call not to serve his own political interests but to “help our country move forward from the divisiveness of the Russia collusion investigation.”
Separately, the U.S. Justice Department’s internal watchdog said on Monday it found numerous errors but no evidence of political bias by the FBI in opening a probe into contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia in 2016.
Reporting by David Morgan, Patricia Zengerle, Susan Cornwell, Susan Heavey, Tim Ahmann, Mark Hosenball and Lisa Lambert; Writing by Paul Simao and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney
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