Sunday 26 January 2020

Democrats claim Trump 'betrayed US for own gain'

Protest: Supporters of Donald Trump rally outside the US Capitol building in Washington. Photo: Carlos Jasso/Reuters
Protest: Supporters of Donald Trump rally outside the US Capitol building in Washington. Photo: Carlos Jasso/Reuters

Lisa Mascaro

A House panel has released a lengthy report claiming US President Donald Trump betrayed America for his own political gain.

Mr Trump faces two articles of impeachment by House Democrats: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

They point to his pressuring Ukraine to investigate 2020 political rival Joe Biden while withholding as leverage military aid the country relies on to counter Russia, as well as his efforts to block the House investigation.

The House will vote tomorrow on the impeachment articles approved last week by the House judiciary panel. The vote is all but certain to result in Mr Trump's impeachment, though he's expected to be acquitted in a Senate trial.

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Detailing its case against the nation's 45th president, the judiciary panel released a 650-page report just after midnight. It said Mr Trump "betrayed the nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections".

The panel summarised the evidence for impeachment compiled by the House intelligence committee, and said Mr Trump "has demonstrated he will remain a threat to national security and the constitution if allowed to remain in office".

Mr Trump, by refusing to co-operate with the House impeachment inquiry, violated the constitution's system of checks and balances, the report said.

In dissent, Republicans on the panel denounced the materials submitted by Democrats as "paltry".

"The paltry record on which the majority relies is an affront to the constitutional process of impeachment and will have grave consequences for future presidents," said Doug Collins, of Georgia, the panel's top Republican. "The quicker the majority report and the majority's actions are forgotten, the better."

And the White House press secretary tweeted yesterday that the release of the impeachment report "in the middle of the night" underscored that the impeachment effort was a "partisan sham".

Only the fourth US president to be charged in impeachment proceedings, Mr Trump has insisted he has done nothing wrong. Votes are set for tomorrow in the House, but already attention is turning to the Senate trial, where the Republicans are expected to acquit Mr Trump in January.

"There ought to be a fair trial where the whole truth comes out," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters in New York. "And I'm going to work to get that done."

The top Senate Democrat called for new evidence and testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and two others as part of a detailed proposal outlined in a letter on Sunday to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to spur negotiations with the GOP.

"This trial must be one that is fair, that considers all of the relevant facts," Mr Schumer wrote.

"The trial must be one that not only hears all of the evidence and adjudicates the case fairly; it must also pass the fairness test with the American people."

Mr Trump has expressed interest in a robust trial that would not only clear him of the charges in the Senate but also vindicate him, but his desire for a lengthy proceeding is something Senate Republicans are hoping to avoid.

Mr McConnell and Mr Schumer are expected to meet to discuss how to conduct the trial, much as the Democrats and Republicans did during Bill Clinton's impeachment two decades ago. The witness list will be key to the proceedings.

Despite Republican control in the Senate, Mr McConnell's slim 53-47 majority limits his ability to steer the impeachment trial. It takes 51 votes to approve most motions in the proceedings, even to set the rules, which means the leader can only afford to lose two Republican senators and still pass his preferred options.

Some Republican senators may feel pressure from Democrats to call additional witnesses or expand the proceedings, especially those up for re-election next year in swing states where voters are split in their views of Mr Trump.

At the same time, Democrats face political risks if Republicans lean into Mr Trump's demands for a showier trial, summoning Mr Biden or his son, Hunter Biden, or others to appear.

Republicans claim without evidence that Hunter Biden's work for a gas company in Ukraine merited the investigation Mr Trump sought from that country's officials.

In his letter, Mr Schumer proposes a detailed structure and timeline for a trial to begin on January 7.

Irish Independent

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