- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The House has kicked off an all-day debate leading up to the vote expected Wednesday night to impeach President Trump for abuse of office and obstruction of Congress.

Democrats described the proceedings as a grave undertaking to save American democracy, while Republicans denounced the effort as a partisan railroading of the president.

Rep. James P. McGovern, Massachusetts Democrats, described it as a “democracy-defining moment.”

“We cannot reconcile the president’s abuse of power and obstruction of Congress with the oath we took,” he said.

Rep. Debbie Lesko, Arizona Republican, called it “the most partisan impeachment in the history of the United States,” noting that no Republicans are expected to vote yes.

“This is a sad day,” she said. “I believe Democrats are tearing this country apart.”

Lawmakers first were to spend an hour debating the rules governing the rest of the day. Then they would start the clock on six hours of debate on the articles themselves.

Democrats believe their case against Mr. Trump, rooted in the Ukraine scandal, is ironclad and presents a threat to the upcoming 2020 elections.

The impeachment case stems from a July 25 phone call in which Mr. Trump pressed Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor” in investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Ukraine meddling in the 2016 election.

A whistleblower, who is believed to be a CIA official assigned to the White House, accused the president of abusing his power for personal gain on the call, including withholding $391 million of U.S. military aid from Ukraine as leverage.

The whistleblower also is believed to have ties to the Democratic Party and to the elder Mr. Biden, and the whistleblower is known to have met with Mr. Schiff’s staff for guidance prior to making the complaint.

A rough transcript of the call the White House released in late September did not show the president present a quid pro quo deal for the investigations, but Democrats have argued the threat was understood and part of an ongoing pressure campaign of “shadow” foreign policy conducted by Mr. Trump’s private lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The quid pro quo, a Latin term meaning a transaction of “this for that,” is was the crux of the Democrats’ case that Mr. Trump engaged in a bribery or extortion scheme that warrants impeachment.

However, the articles of impeachment did not include charges of bribery and extortion or any mention of a quid pro quo.

The articles rely heavily on testimony from Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who said he offered a prized White House visit for the newly-elected Mr. Zelensky in exchange for his announcement of the investigations. But Mr. Sondland said he “presumed” that was what Mr. Trump wanted.

In his only conversation with the president about it, Mr. Trump told him that there was “no quid pro quo,” he testified.

None of the witnesses in the impeachment inquiry linked the holdup of military assistance to the investigations or provided a reason for the holdup. The aid was delayed for about two months, before the money started to flow to Ukraine on Sept. 11, two days after the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community informed Congress of the whistleblower complaint.

Mr. Trump has acknowledged that he wanted an investigation into alleged corruption involving the Bidens and Ukraine interference in the 2016 election.

Interest increased in Mr. Biden’s actions in Ukraine after he recently boasted of forcing Ukraine to fire the country’s chief prosecutor in spring 2016. He said threatened to block a $1 billion U.S. loan guarantee. The prosecutor was widely viewed as not doing enough to combat corruption. But the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, also had looked into corruption allegations against Burisma and Mykola Zlochevsky, the Ukraine oligarch running the company.

Mr. Trump also wanted Ukraine to look into a missing Democratic National Committee server that was hacked by Russia during the 2016 presidential campaigns. An American cybersecurity company called CrowdStrike examined the server to probe the hack but the server disappeared before it got to the FBI.

Mr. Trump subscribes to an unsubstantiated theory that the server ended up in Ukraine.

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