- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2019

House Democratic leaders huddled Thursday on Capitol Hill strategizing over which articles of impeachment to bring against President Trump, with the obstruction charge topping a menu of allegations that they think will give the party’s vulnerable members cover to vote yes, said a source familiar with the deliberations.

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to present the articles of impeachment as soon as next week, ramping up the process after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement Thursday that Democrats would move forward with an impeachment vote.

“The president leaves us no choice but to act because he’s trying once again to corrupt the election for his own benefit,” Mrs. Pelosi said. The decision, she said, was made “sadly” and with “our heart full of love for America.”

House Democrats have outlined potential articles of impeachment stemming from Mr. Trump asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate political rival Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter. Likely articles of impeachment include abuse of office, bribery, inviting foreign interference in an election and obstruction of a congressional investigation.

It is the charge of obstruction that currently stands out for Mrs. Pelosi’s team as the best bet to attract moderate members of Congress running for reelection next year in pro-Trump districts, said the sources.



The votes of the moderate Democrats could be crucial for impeachment. Their votes are up in the air after a series of public hearings failed to build public support beyond the party’s base and turned off independents.

“Clearly just in the Ukraine case we have a dozen witnesses that have been prevented by the White House from testifying,” Rep. Harley Rouda, a vulnerable freshman Democrat from California, said of his ability to get behind the obstruction charge.

Moving quickly, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold L. Nadler announced a hearing on Monday for a presentation of evidence by the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that led the congressional investigation.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee will stay in Washington this weekend to prep for Monday’s hearing, when both Republicans and Democrats from the Intelligence and Judiciary committees will present evidence.

The Intelligence Committee, led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, issued its 300-page report Tuesday detailing the allegations against Mr. Trump.

The case stems from a July 25 phone call in which Mr. Trump pressed the Ukrainian president for a “favor” in investigating the Bidens 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.

As Democrats advanced the impeachment process, Mr. Trump said he is “not at all” worried about it tarnishing his legacy.

“It’s a hoax. It’s a big fat hoax,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House.

While the president says he’s looking forward to exoneration in a Senate trial, some of his advisers are debating whether Mrs. Pelosi has enough votes to impeach Mr. Trump. The White House is targeting 31 House Democrats in districts that Mr. Trump won in 2016, and believes that as many as 20 freshman Democrats in those districts would be committing political suicide by voting in favor of impeachment.

Pressed by reporters about the potential political fallout, Ms. Pelosi declared that the impeachment had “absolutely nothing to do with politics.”

“It isn’t about politics, partisanship, Democrats and Republicans. It’s totally insignificant,” she said at her weekly press conference at the Capitol. “It’s about the Constitution of the United States, the oath of office we take to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. It’s about the president not honoring his oath of office. So, no, I’m not concerned.”

Still, the GOP and its allies have been running ads against those Democrats for weeks, arguing that House Democrats are engaging in unproductive partisanship while allowing important issues such as trade and prescription drug pricing to go unfinished.

Some in the Republican Party are expecting a backlash from independent voters against impeachment that would propel Republicans to win back the House majority.

If that happened, Mrs. Pelosi would become the first Democratic speaker to lose the post twice. She lost the speakership in 2010 when Democrats lost 63 House seats to Republicans amid voter anger over Obamacare.

Beyond the political toll, Mr. Trump warned the Democrats were setting a dangerous precedent by pursuing a fast-track impeachment on flimsy grounds.

He predicted that his impeachment “will mean that the beyond important and seldom used act of Impeachment will be used routinely to attack future Presidents.”

“That is not what our Founders had in mind,” the president tweeted. “The good thing is that the Republicans have NEVER been more united. We will win!”

With the House teeing up an impeachment vote as soon as the end of the month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cleared his chamber’s January schedule for an impeachment trial.

The Kentucky Republican lamented the “rushed and partisan impeachment process” that he said crowded out important congressional business.

“Only in this town, only in Washington, D.C., does anybody think it’s OK for our armed forces to go unfunded and a major trade deal to go unpassed because Democrats are too busy hosting a panel of law professors to criticize President Trump on television,” he said, referring to a House impeachment hearing Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Mr. McConnell’s remarks were “disheartening, confounding, deeply disappointing” and added that “no belittling of these charges [against Mr. Trump] will hold any water.”

The president and his GOP allies have said they will turn the tables on Democrats when impeachment moves to the Republican-run Senate. They have proposed calling for testimony by the whistleblower, Mr. Schiff, who has been linked to the whistleblower, and the Bidens.

The former vice president, a top contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said he would not appear at a Senate trial.

Mr. Trump has acknowledged that he wanted Ukraine to investigate alleged corruption involving Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, who landed a high-paying position on the board of Ukraine natural gas company Burisma Holdings in 2014. At the time, his father was the point man for Obama White House policy in the country, which is notorious for corruption, especially in the energy industry.

The elder Mr. Biden recently boasted of forcing Ukrainian leaders to fire the country’s chief prosecutor in spring 2016 by threatening 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.

White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said the elder Mr. Biden should appear at a Senate trial.

“Is Joe Biden insulated, is his son insulated somehow because his father is running for president,” she told reporters. “I would think that if you were running for president the scrutiny should be higher, the transparency demand should be greater — not lower. And if they have nothing to hide they should be happy to come and testify.”

Ryan Lovelace contributed to this report.

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