- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment Tuesday against President Trump, and the Judiciary Committee announced plans to vote on them 24 hours later, maintaining Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s rapid pace to have a full House vote before lawmakers leave for Christmas.

The charges accuse Mr. Trump of obstruction of Congress for his refusal to let aides testify about his behavior, and abuse of power for trying to prod the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

Democrats do not allege bribery or a quid pro quo — something no witnesses were able to sustain during a month of public hearings. Instead, they argue that Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine “betrayed” the country by trying to enlist a foreign power to meddle in the 2020 election, just as they accuse him of doing with Russia in 2016.

SEE ALSO: Democrats unveil two articles of impeachment against Trump

They defended their speedy process by saying they need to act before election season gets fully underway.

“The integrity of our next election is at risk from a president who has already sought foreign interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections and who consistently puts himself above country. That is why we must act now,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, who as chairman of the Judiciary Committee is the author of the articles of impeachment.

At a rally in Pennsylvania on Tuesday evening, Mr. Trump dismissed the “impeachment lite” charges as “flimsy, pathetic” articles. The White House said Democrats are afraid voters won’t oust the president at the ballot box next year, so impeachment is their only chance to prevent four more years in office.

Impeachment seemed to be a lost cause in July after lackluster testimony by former special counsel Robert Mueller derailed hopes of ousting Mr. Trump over the Russia investigation.

But a day later, Mr. Trump held a phone conversation with Ukraine’s president and asked him for a “favor” — investigate Mr. Biden, the leading Democrat in the contest to face Mr. Trump in 2020. An unidentified whistleblower reported the call to an inspector general, who alerted Congress.

The Justice Department investigated and cleared Mr. Trump of a crime, but Democrats on Capitol Hill said the behavior was worthy of impeachment and began a sprint to vote on articles by the end of the year.

One specific charge lodged against Mr. Trump is that he unlawfully withheld documents from the House investigation and blocked witnesses from testifying by claiming presidential immunity.

The broader charge alleges that he used his office to pursue personal political vendettas by inviting a foreign power to meddle in the election. Part of that was delaying $391 million in military assistance that Congress had approved for Ukraine.

“In all of this, President Trump abused the powers of the presidency by ignoring and injuring national security and other vital national interests to obtain an improper personal political benefit. He has also betrayed the nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections,” the article of impeachment reads.

Republicans said it was telling what Democrats left out of their articles: allegations of a quid pro quo.

“They were set on a quid pro quo, which bombed. Then they switched it to bribery after doing polling. That bombed. And now they are left with these two articles,” Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican, told The Washington Times. “We are a long way from where we began in this mess.”

Samuel E. Dewey, a lawyer who led oversight investigations in the House before going into private practice, said in choosing to go with an abuse of power argument, Democrats were settling for a more vague charge that might be easier for maintaining party unity.

“It’s much easier to defend your vote on an amorphous abuse of power element,” he said. “It’s also harder to defend” against.

He called the obstruction of Congress charge “a joke as a matter of law.” He said Mr. Trump has raised the same constitutional privileges that every president since Harry S. Truman has cited in battling Congress.

Democrats are moving ahead despite failing to win over voters, a majority of whom now oppose impeachment, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released Tuesday.

The 51% opposition is the highest rate since Mrs. Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry in late September and after a series of public hearings that Democrats hoped would sway Americans.

Support for impeachment, meanwhile, stands at 45%, Quinnipiac found.

Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed, while Democrats are nearly as solidly in support of the move. The margin is among independents, who oppose impeachment by 52% to 44%, Quinnipiac found.

It’s not clear whether those numbers will affect votes.

One moderate Democrat said about 10 of them were discussing alternatives such as a vote censuring Mr. Trump. The Democrat, who asked reporters for anonymity, said they wanted to see whether such a vote could attract Republicans willing to vote for a rebuke but not for impeachment.

“We think that would be a very strong statement,” the Democratic lawmaker said.

If Democrats muster the votes to impeach Mr. Trump — and they seemed confident of that fact this week — the Senate will hold a trial early next year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the details of the trial remain to be worked out, including timing and whether the Senate would hear live witnesses.

“We’ll make that decision after hearing opening arguments,” Mr. McConnell said.

He said he will negotiate on details with Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

That is far different from the approach in the House, where Democrats have sped toward impeachment while limiting the chances for Mr. Trump and Republican supporters to make their case.

“It’s been a very one-sided and biased proceeding, and I think the entire process was deliberately structured to hinder the ability of the president to defend himself, limit what was considered to be evidence Democrats thought would be incriminating, but then at the same time to allow them a fig leaf to say they were following precedent,” Mr. Dewey said.

He said the result of that has been to sour independent voters on the push for impeachment.

Republican lawmakers said if Democrats were serious about their impeachment push they would slow down and wait to hear from witnesses who have resisted testifying, such as former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton and former Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the man who served as impeachment maestro for most of the proceedings, rejected the calls to slow down

“The argument ‘Why don’t you just wait?’ amounts to this: ‘Why don’t you just let him cheat in one more election? Why not let him cheat just one more time? Why not let him have foreign help just one more time?’” the California Democrat said.

Michael Gerhardt, an impeachment scholar at the University of North Carolina, said Democrats are moving quickly but similarly to the impeachments of President Clinton in 1998 and President Johnson in 1868.

He said Congress has moved as quickly as it could to talk to witnesses and gather evidence yet has met with presidential obstruction.

“Much of what has been done has been done in public, and it is all moving fast — not just the inquiry but the obstruction,” said Mr. Gerhardt, who was one of the Democrats’ witnesses at last week’s first Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment standards.

Mr. Dewey, though, said the Clinton proceedings were stretched out longer. He also said Mr. Schiff oversaw an impeachment inquiry into a federal judge a decade ago and spent more than a year investigating before taking action.

“Schiff comported himself with dignity and restraint in that proceeding that has been completely absent in this proceeding, Mr. Dewey said.

⦁ S.A. Miller and Ryan Lovelace contributed to this report.

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