Democrats are expected to unveil two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump as soon as Tuesday, after the party’s legal counsel warned the president poses a “clear and present danger” to US elections and national security.
Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, met the chairmen of Democratic committees on Monday night, after a marathon session of the House judiciary committee at which lawyers for both Democrats and Republicans presented evidence from the impeachment inquiry.
Democrats agreed on two articles of impeachment charging the president with abuse of power and obstructing Congress, according to two people briefed on the discussions. Talks about a possible third article to charge the president with obstruction of justice linked to the Mueller report into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election had not concluded.
Jerrold Nadler, the Democratic congressman from New York who chairs the judiciary committee, had earlier said Mr Trump had “put himself before country” and his “pattern of conduct represents a continuing risk” to the US.
Mr Nadler’s judiciary committee took the reins of the impeachment inquiry last week, after the House intelligence committee, chaired by California congressman Adam Schiff, produced a 300-page report accusing Mr Trump of abusing his office for political gain and trying to obstruct the ensuing congressional investigation. The report was based on both public and closed-door testimony from more than a dozen witnesses.
Mr Nadler said at the weekend that his goal was to vote on articles of impeachment “as fairly as possible depending how long it takes”. Many Democrats expect the committee to draft and vote on articles of impeachment this week, ahead of a vote on the House floor before Christmas.
Mr Trump is expected to be impeached by the Democrat-controlled House, but is likely to be acquitted in an eventual trial in the Senate, where Republicans have a majority.
Republicans have accused Democrats of rushing the impeachment process ahead of next year’s presidential election in November. With less than two months to go until the Iowa caucuses, an impeachment trial early next year in the Senate could also coincide with the Democratic primaries.
Mr Nadler defended the timeline on Monday, saying: “I want to be absolutely clear: the integrity of our next election is at stake. Nothing could be more urgent.”
His comments were echoed by Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman, who said the president’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”.
Steve Castor, the Republican counsel, rejected the Democrats’ claims and characterised the impeachment process as “unfair”.
“To impeach a president who 63m people voted for over eight lines in a call transcript is baloney,” he said.
Mr Trump did not directly comment on Monday’s hearing, but took to Twitter throughout the morning to share messages such as “Witch hunt!” and “The do nothing Democrats are a disgrace!”