WASHINGTON — Seventy-seven days.
Beginning with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s formal announcement of an impeachment investigation in late September, it took 77 days for the House to produce articles of impeachment resulting from President Trump’s shakedown scheme with the Ukrainian government.
House Democratic staffers worked through the night to put the finishing touches on articles of impeachment. On Tuesday morning, Democratic leaders unveiled two draft articles.
The first accuses Trump of abusing his power for conditioning a White House meeting and $391 million in security aid on Ukraine announcing investigations that would hurt Trump’s U.S. rivals and benefit his reelection. The second draft article accuses Trump of obstructing Congress’ investigation into Trump’s Ukraine plot by refusing to allow key witnesses to testify and not providing a single document in response to legal subpoenas issued by Congress.
“The integrity of our next election is at risk from a president who has already sought foreign interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections and who consistently puts himself above country,” Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “That’s why we must act now.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, called the evidence of Trump’s impeachment conduct “overwhelming and uncontested.” He also responded to critics who said the impeachment process moved too fast and didn’t do enough to obtain key documents or witness testimony. Schiff countered that it took eight months to get a single lower court decision that former White House Counsel Don McGahn, a potential witness in the impeachment inquiry, did not have absolute immunity from testifying. Schiff said Congress couldn’t wait another eight months to overturn a future claim of immunity by McGahn or any other witness.
“The argument ‘Why don’t you just wait?’ amounts to this: Why don’t just let him in cheat in one more election?” Schiff said. “Why not let him cheat just one more time? Why not let him have foreign help one more time?”
The articles introduced Tuesday bear a striking resemblance to those brought against Richard Nixon in in the summer of 1974. Nixon was accused in three articles of impeachment of abusing his power, obstructing justice, and defying a lawful House subpoena.
In Nixon’s case, the articles were approved by the Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support. That’s almost surely not going to happen in Trump’s case. The Democratic-run Judiciary Committee is set to vote on the articles on Thursday and expected to pass them on a party-line vote.
Here’s what happens next: After the Judiciary Committee considers and votes on any articles of impeachment, the action will move to the House floor. After a debate of some period — the House took two days to deliberate over President Bill Clinton’s impeachment articles — the House will take a final vote on the articles. Democrats control the House and have the numbers to approve the articles, even if a dozen or so Democrats vote no.
The Nixon impeachment, of course, never got that far. Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, before the full House of Representatives got the chance to vote on whether to impeach him. Trump will surely do no such thing. Democrats say they plan to hold a final impeachment vote before they leave Washington for the year on December 20.
A House-approved impeachment does not remove the president from office or put him in jail — it is essentially a charging document, a political indictment. The action then moves to the U.S. Senate, which has blocked off all of January for what could be the third impeachment trial in the country’s history. It would take a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict Trump and remove him from office. Barring a mass defection by Senate Republicans, that isn’t going to happen, and the impeachment process will end with an acquittal for the president.