Democrats almost done drafting articles of impeachment

But Republican-controlled Senate unlikely to remove Trump

WASHINGTON • US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that Democrats will draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, a crucial step towards a vote in the full House.

The articles, likely to mostly encompass Democrats' findings on Mr Trump's dealings with Ukraine, could charge Mr Trump with abuse of office, bribery and obstruction.

Lawmakers and staff are expected to finish drafting the articles in the coming days, a process that is being led by Ms Pelosi and the House Judiciary Committee. That panel could approve the articles as early as next week, setting up a vote of the full House in the days before Christmas.

Here is a breakdown of what it means, how the process works and what the articles might say:

WHAT ARE ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT?

Articles of impeachment are charges against the president. If the House approves them, they are then sent to the Senate for a trial and eventual vote.

In a Senate trial, senators are jurors and select House members act as prosecutors, or impeachment managers. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides. If the Senate approves an article of impeachment with a two-thirds vote of "guilty", the president is convicted and removed from office. If all the articles are rejected, the president is acquitted.

While the process has the trappings of a criminal trial, the decision is purely political.

This is the fourth time in US history that Congress has moved to impeach a president. If he were convicted by the Senate, Mr Trump would be the first to be removed. But that is unlikely in the Republican-controlled Senate.

WHAT THE ARTICLES WILL COVER

The articles of impeachment are likely to encompass two major themes - abuse of office and obstruction. But they could be divvied up into multiple articles.

An impeachment article accusing Mr Trump of abuse of office, or abuse of power, would focus on the findings of the Ukraine investigation and his efforts to persuade the Ukrainian government to investigate Democrats as the US withheld military aid. That conduct is the focus of a House Intelligence Committee report that will be presented to the Judiciary panel for consideration in a Monday hearing.

 
 
 
 

Some lawmakers have suggested that Democrats could break out "bribery" as a separate article. It would likely centre on Mr Trump withholding the aid, and also withholding a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in exchange for the political investigations.

Obstruction articles could be broken up into obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice, or the two could be combined.

The administration's repeated refusals to provide papers and testimony would be the basis for an article charging Mr Trump with obstructing Congress. If Democrats decide to draft an article on obstruction of justice, it could mention the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

DIFFERING DEMOCRATIC VIEWS

There has been an internal debate in the House Democratic caucus about how many articles to write and how much to include.

Some moderate Democrats have argued that the articles should focus solely on Ukraine, as they believe it is a clearer case. Others say they cannot ignore Mr Mueller's report, which said that Mr Trump could not be exonerated of obstructing the special counsel's investigation. He essentially left the matter up to Congress.

Virginia Representative Gerry Connolly said it would be a "terrible mistake" to ignore obstruction of justice as laid out by Mr Mueller. But he said Democrats "certainly don't want everything in the kitchen sink" in the articles, either.

"I think we should keep it as simple as possible," said California Representative Eric Swalwell, a member of the Judiciary and Intelligence panels. "I think it's important that this is digestible for everyday Americans who are understandably busy, but understand what a shakedown is, too."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2019, with the headline 'Democrats almost done drafting articles of impeachment'. Print Edition | Subscribe