All eyes are on what charges House Democrats plan to bring against President Trump now that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked the House to proceed with drafting articles of impeachment. And while House Democrats have yet to announce those charges, they may have already dropped some clues as to what they could be.
Democrats displayed a list of impeachable offenses during Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing — including abuse of power and bribery, obstruction of Congress, and obstruction of justice — that hint at what they intend to draft against Trump.
House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., reiterated these three points in his closing statement:
“As I sit here today, having heard consistent, clear and compelling evidence that the president has abused his power, attempted to undermine the constitutional role of Congress and corrupted our elections, I urge my colleagues to stand behind the oath you have taken,” Nadler said.
So what could Trump be formally accused of?
Abuse of Power
According to arguments laid out by House Democrats, Trump abused his power as president and attempted to bribe a foreign leader by withholding an Oval Office meeting and military aid until Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly announced investigations involving his political rival, Joe Biden, and a now-debunked theory that Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 presidential election. This argument was endorsed by three out of the four constitutional law experts who testified at Wednesday’s hearing.
Obstruction of Congress
The second offense — obstruction of Congress — refers to Trump blocking key witnesses and documents from appearing before Congress. Democrats have been making this argument for weeks. On Oct. 8, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-N.Y., Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., released a statement alluding to the obstruction of Congress after President Trump attempted to prevent Ambassador Gordon Sondland from testifying.
“The White House has once again attempted to impede and obstruct the impeachment inquiry,” the three House chairmen wrote in the statement.
Obstruction of Justice
The third possible article of impeachment — obstruction of justice — involves the Mueller investigation, which Democrats included in their questioning during Wednesday’s hearing. Nadler also referenced the Mueller investigation in his opening statement.
“When his own Justice Department tried to uncover the extent to which a foreign government had broken our laws, President Trump took extraordinary and unprecedented steps to obstruct the investigation, including ignoring subpoenas, ordering the creation of false records, and publicly attacking and intimidating witnesses,” Nadler said. “Then as now, this administration’s level of obstruction is without precedent.”
North Carolina Law professor Michael Gerhardt also included the Mueller report in his testimony on Wednesday, and tied it to obstruction of justice. “This evidence that’s been put forward by Mr. Mueller that’s in the public record is very strong evidence of obstruction of justice,” Gerhardt said.
The House Judiciary Committee will hold a second hearing on Dec. 9, which will include presentations on the evidence that has been collected thus far. According to the New York Times, some Democrats believe the House Judiciary Committee is on track for a possible vote to impeach the president by Dec. 20.
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