House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, citing Donald Trump's "failure to faithfully execute the law," said Thursday she will ask the chair of the judiciary committee to proceed to draw up articles of impeachment against the U.S. president.
The Democrat said the facts were uncontested with respect to Trump's dealings with Ukraine this spring and summer. Military aid and a crucial White House meeting were withheld, she charged, in exchange for Ukraine announcing an investigation into Trump Democratic rival Joe Biden.
"If we allow a president to be above the law, we do so surely at the peril of our republic," said Pelosi.
"Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment," she said.
Pelosi did not offer more details on the process, but it was soon announced that the House judiciary committee would hold its next hearing on Monday, where presentations of evidence from House intelligence legal counsel will be heard.
Democrats could begin drafting articles of impeachment in a matter of days, with a judiciary committee vote next week. The full House could vote by Christmas. The matter would then move to the Republican-led Senate for a trial in 2020 if a majority of the 435-member House votes in favour of any or all articles of impeachment.
A Senate trial would be presided over by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, with a two-thirds majority needed in that chamber for conviction. There has been no indication to date that enough Republicans would vote to convict to meet that threshold.
"Our democracy is what is at stake," Pelosi said. "The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections."
Trump says bring it on
White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham said the president hoped for a fair trial in the Senate, and Pelosi and the Democrats "should be ashamed."
Earlier, Trump tweeted: "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."
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