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    Trump impeachment: US House ready for historic vote

    December 18, 2019

    Donald Trump is set to become the third US president in history to be impeached later by the House of Representatives.Democratic lawmakers are expected to approve two impeachment charges against the Republican president on Wednesday.Mr Trump is scheduled to face a trial in the Senate next month, but that chamber is controlled by members of his party and it is unlikely to vote that he should be removed from office.The president has called the process an "attempted coup" and a "witch hunt".In a six-page letter on the eve of the vote, Mr Trump argued he had been denied his rights "from the beginning of this impeachment scam".He has blocked top aides from testifying before lawmakers in the House and declined an invitation to appear himself.
    On Tuesday, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the vote on both charges.Mrs Pelosi wrote to colleagues that impeachment is "one of the most solemn powers granted to us by the Constitution", and called it a "very prayerful moment in our nation's history".Members of the House will meet from 09:00 local time (14:00 GMT) on Wednesday. Votes on both articles of impeachment are expected between 18:30 and 19:30.As the House prepares to vote, President Trump will fly to Michigan for a "Merry Christmas" rally along with Vice-President Mike Pence.
    After hours of debate, the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee approved two charges against Mr Trump last week.The first is abuse of power. It accuses the president of trying to pressure Ukraine to smear his political rival, Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden.
    Mr Trump and his conservative allies have alleged without evidence that while he was US vice-president Joe Biden encouraged Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor in order to stop him investigating a Ukrainian gas company that employed his son, Hunter Biden, as a board member.Democrats say Mr Trump dangled $400m of US military aid and the prospect of a White House meeting for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as bargaining chips to prod the US ally into announcing a corruption inquiry into the Bidens.The second charge is obstructing Congress. Mr Trump is accused of failing to co-operate with the House impeachment investigation.The president has denied withholding US aid to benefit himself politically and maintains it was appropriate to ask Ukraine to look into alleged corruption.
    Under the US constitution, a president "shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanours". It is a political process, not a legal one.The first step takes place in the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by Democrats. Members there hold a vote to impeach, which only needs a simple majority to pass.When this happens as expected, Mr Trump will formally have been impeached, and proceedings go on to the Senate for a trial. If two-thirds of senators then vote to convict the president, he is removed from office.Two US presidents have been impeached - Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 - but in both cases the Senate did not vote to force them from office.Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in August 1974 when it became clear he would be impeached and ousted by Congress in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
    Groups of demonstrators in favour of Mr Trump's impeachment rallied in major cities across the US on Tuesday.Many held signs reading "Dump Trump" and bearing the hashtag #ImpeachNow.Surveys suggest the country is split on the process. US political website FiveThirtyEight's collection of national polls shows just over 47% back impeachment, while 46.4% do not support it.

    Trump impeachment inquiry: A simple guide

    Share this with Facebook Share this with Messenger Share this with Twitter Share this with Email ShareRelated TopicsTrump impeachment inquiryMedia captionA beginner's guide to impeachment and TrumpUS President Donald Trump is facing a process that could, with enough support in Congress, see him removed from office.It all centres on whether or not he improperly sought help from Ukraine to boost his chances of re-election in 2020.Formal impeachment charges were approved by the Democratic Party-controlled House Judiciary Committee on 13 December following weeks of debate.President Trump, who is a Republican, strongly denies any wrongdoing.Depending on what happens in the next few weeks, Mr Trump could end up becoming only the third president in US history to be impeached - but more on what that means below.
    President Trump is accused of pressuring Ukraine to dig up damaging information on one of his main Democratic challengers for the presidency in 2020, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter.Hunter worked for a Ukrainian company when Joe Biden was US vice-president.The president is accused of dangling two things as bargaining chips to Ukraine - withholding $400m of military aid to Ukraine that had already been allocated by Congress, and a White House meeting for Ukraine's president.This, Democrats say, amounts to an abuse of presidential power, using the office for personal political gain and to the detriment of national security. Ukraine was using that money in its ongoing conflict with Russia.Mr Trump is also accused of obstructing Congress by refusing to co-operate with the congressional inquiry.
    A formal complaint from a whistleblower - an unnamed intelligence official who wrote a letter expressing concern about Mr Trump's 25 July call with President Volodymyr Zelensky - kicked off the impeachment process in early September.A rough transcript of the call revealed that Mr Trump had urged President Zelensky to investigate discredited allegations against Joe and Hunter Biden.

     

    Media captionWhat we know about Biden-Ukraine corruption claims
    The call came shortly after Mr Trump had blocked the release of millions of dollars in US military aid to Ukraine. A senior official later testified that the president made clear the release of the aid was conditional on Mr Biden being investigated, but the White House denies this.In a series of public hearings, a procession of US officials have testified that there was a White House shadow foreign policy led by the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.Its aim was to get Ukraine to open an investigation into the Bidens and declare as much publicly.
    Mr Trump denies using US military aid as a bargaining chip with Mr Zelensky and has repeatedly insisted his call with Ukraine's leader was "perfect".He has called the impeachment inquiry a "witch hunt" by Democrats and elements of the media.He also says it was appropriate to ask Ukraine to investigate "corruption", referring to the energy firm where Hunter Biden worked.The Republican defence comes in three parts:
    - Ukraine's president said he felt no pressure

    - The Ukrainians were unaware the aid was held back

    - US military aid was eventually released

    What is impeachment anyway?
    To impeach, in this context, means to bring charges in Congress that will form the basis for a trial.

    The US constitution states a president "shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanours".

    It's important to note this is a political process, rather than a criminal one.

     

    Media captionWhat does it take to impeach a president?
    What is the process?
    It happens in two stages. Proceedings have to be started by the House of Representatives.

    A vote to impeach only needs a simple majority to pass and if it does, the process then moves to the Senate where a trial is held.But here, a two-thirds vote is necessary for a president's removal - and this milestone has never been reached in US history.The Senate is currently controlled by the Republican Party so conviction is considered unlikely in Trump's case.Have other US presidents been impeached?
    Bill Clinton found himself impeached on the grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice after he lied about the nature of his affair with Monica Lewinsky and then allegedly asked her to lie about it as well.But when the trial reached the Senate in 1999, the vote for a conviction failed to get close to the two-thirds backing required.
    Bill and Hillary Clinton with US House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt after Mr Clinton was impeached
    The only other president impeached was Andrew Johnson in 1868. He was accused of, among other things, dismissing his secretary of war against the will of Congress. Mr Johnson had a narrow escape - the two-thirds majority in the Senate was missed by just one vote.
    President Andrew Johnson narrowly survived his impeachment trial
    Richard Nixon, the 37th US president, resigned in 1974 before he could be impeached over the Watergate scandal.
    Who would replace Trump?
    The line of succession for the US government, as established by the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, would mean Vice-President Mike Pence moving into the Oval Office.
    Trump's blistering letter to Pelosi: Five key quotes
    Anthony Zurcher
    North America reporter
    @awzurcheron Twitter
    17 December 2019
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    Related TopicsTrump impeachment inquiry
    Image copyrightREUTERS
    Donald Trump has some words for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the congressional Democrats on the eve of his impeachment. Over six pages, on White House letterhead, the president piles adjectives like cords of wood, fires rhetorical fusillades in all directions and invokes the judgement of the American people, the nation's founding fathers and history itself.

    It's a presidential airing of grievances six days before Festivus (that mythical rage-fuelled holiday immortalised by the TV show Seinfeld).

    Here are five choice lines from a president whose capacity for the extraordinary and unprecedented is ever-expanding.

    Read the letter
    A bumpy ride for Democrat backing impeachment
    Rudy Giuliani 'forced Ukraine ambassador out'
    "You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!"

    Donald Trump's defenders have warned that Democrats are lowering the bar for impeachment and inviting a future in which the process is used by House majorities to bully and bedevil a president of an opposing party. That's the gist of what Trump is saying here, although suggesting one can "cheapen" an already "ugly" word is an interesting take.

    "Even worse than offending the Founding Fathers, you are offending Americans of faith by continually saying 'I pray for the president', when you know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in the negative sense."

    Nancy Pelosi's temper flared a few weeks ago when a conservative journalist suggested that she hated the president. The House speaker, a practising Catholic, has frequently referred to her faith as a guide and said that, while she is acting against the president's interests, she does so with remorse, not vindictiveness. Trump - who rarely practises and seldom talks of his religion - wants everyone to know he thinks Pelosi's assertions are bunk.

    Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
    "You are turning a policy disagreement between two branches of government into an impeachable offence - it is no more legitimate than the Executive Branch charging members of Congress with crimes for lawful exercise of legislative power."

    This sounds like a threat. Is it a threat? The process of impeachment was designed by the American founders to be a component of the checks-and-balances system that created tension between the executive and legislative branches of government. (The third branch, the judiciary, will have its own role to play, as the chief justice oversees a presidential trial in the Senate following impeachment.)

    The founders left the grounds for what constituted an impeachable offence relatively open and undefined. It is what a majority of the House says it is, and its legitimacy is derived from the will of that majority.

    "You know full well that Vice President Joe Biden used his office and $1bn of US aid money to coerce Ukraine into firing the prosecutor who was digging into the company paying his son millions of dollars."

    While Biden, now a Democratic candidate for president, did pressure Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor and even bragged about it in the video Trump references, the prosecutor was not actively investigating the company on whose board Biden's son served.

    What's more, Biden was acting at the behest of the Obama administration, other Western governments and Ukrainian government reformers, who viewed the prosecutor as corrupt. Biden has been criticised for an appearance of a conflict of interest because of his son's Ukraine ties - there has been no evidence of misconduct by the then-vice-president.

    "I write this letter to you for the purpose of history and to put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record. One hundred years from now, when people look back at this affair, I want them to understand it, and learn from it, so that it can never happen to another president again."

    The last few pages of Trump's letters are a collection of allegations against Democrats, the FBI and the impeachment process, along with a 214-word sentence boasting of his presidential accomplishments. His concluding lines, however, reveal the reason for this most unorthodox letter.

    At the White House on Tuesday President Trump said that impeachment was a disgrace and a "mark on our country". With his six-page letter, he sounds more concerned that it will be a mark on his presidency.

    The man who regularly heralds his three years in office as the greatest, the most successful, the most extraordinary reign of any American chief executive will now have to explain why he is only the third president to face a Senate trial with his tenure in office at stake.

     

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