Impeachment Week 12: House Judiciary gets briefing on Ukraine, may begin drafting articles of impeachment

Bart Jansen, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – House Democrats could prepare formal charges to impeach President Donald Trump this week as lawmakers edge closer to a possible vote and the president rallies his base of support.

A flurry of activity is expected in Week 12 of the inquiry after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in what she described as an "historic" day Thursday, asked congressional chairmento begin drafting articles of impeachment, the specific grounds for impeachment that would be voted on by the full House. Her announcement came a day after a marathon hearing during which three out of four constitutional scholars said Trump committed impeachable offenses.

The week begins with a Monday briefing on a 300-page congressional report about Trump's dealings with Ukraine, the genesis of the impeachment inquiry, as well as a 55-age report on the legal basis for impeachment. Trump is accused of withholding a White House meeting and military aid as part of a campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate 2020 Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who once sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

For his part, Trump has a rally in 2020 swing state Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

Here is what we can expect this week:

Monday: Judiciary briefed on Ukraine

Intelligence and Judiciary Committee staffers will brief the Judiciary Committee, the panel now leading the inquiry, about the lengthy report released by Democratic lawmakers last week.

The report, referencing Trump's involvement with Ukraine, determined the president solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election.

A partisan clash is expected as Intelligence and Judiciary Committee staffers present their committees' reports. Republican lawmakers, who drafted their own report defending Trump, have argued that Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., should appear to answer questions. Trump tweeted that he would like to question Schiff and Joe Biden, among others, during a potential Senate trial.

After learning more about the Ukraine report and the legal basis for impeachment Monday, Judiciary members must decide whether to pursue other accusations. Obstruction of justice described in former special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election is one other subject of potential articles of impeachment.

Rank-and-file lawmakers have said the committee could begin drafting articles as early as this week, in order to meet an informal deadline to have a House vote this month. But Pelosi and committee chairmen have announced no timeline for the inquiry.

For a president to be impeached, the articles must be approved in a majority vote of the full House. If that happens, the Senate would conduct a trial and could convict and remove the president from office with a two-thirds vote.

Meanwhile, Judiciary Republicans want their own hearing to choose which witnesses will testify.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., requested a minority hearing under House rules. Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., didn't respond immediately to the request. But the top Republican on the panel, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, said Nadler couldn't block a minority hearing with a vote.

"Call it the fair and balanced rule," Collins said.

Trump has called the inquiry "a joke" and congressional Republicans have united in his defense. He's said he was justified in urging the investigation of corruption in Ukraine and that he cooperated with Mueller's probe rather than removing him.

Tuesday: Trump rallies in Pennsylvania

On Tuesday, Trump will hold a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania, a moderate state that aided his victory in 2016 and one considered to be an important toss-up in 2020.

Recent visits to swing states like Pennsylvania, which Trump narrowly won in 2016, suggest the president has his eye on his reelection campaign even while battling impeachment back in Washington.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, he rallied with Vice President Mike Pence in Sunrise, Florida, which former President Barack Obama won in 2008 and 2012. On Dec. 18, he'll hold a rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, the state he won by less than 11,000 votes.

Based on past rallies, expect the president to play up a healthy economy, favorable unemployment numbers and attacks on Democrats trying to impeach him.

"They have no Impeachment case and are demeaning our Country," Trump said of the Democrats on Thursday. "If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump impeachment: Judiciary may draft articles of impeachment