As Democrats close in on impeachment charges, Republicans cry foul

Democrats sought on Monday to bolster the case for impeaching President Donald Trump, describing his pressure on Ukraine to investigate a political rival as a “clear and present danger” to national security and the upcoming U.S. election.

Democrats planned to make an announcement on articles of impeachment on Tuesday morning, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel told reporters after a roughly nine-hour hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. He did not elaborate.

The House’s last scheduled impeachment hearing was punctuated by shouting and recriminations from Trump’s fellow Republicans, unhappy with the process that could lead the panel to vote this week on articles of impeachment.

The committee’s Democratic chairman said there was extensive proof of Trump’s wrongdoing.

“The facts are clear. The danger to our democracy is clear and our duty is clear,” Jerrold Nadler said in his closing statement.

Trump “constitutes a continuing threat to the integrity of our elections and to our democratic system of government,” Nadler added. “Such conduct is clearly impeachable. This committee will proceed accordingly.”

His words portended the next crucial step in the impeachment inquiry launched on Sept. 24 into whether Trump improperly solicited foreign help in the U.S. election.

The Judiciary panel could vote this week on whether to send formal charges, known as articles of impeachment, to the full Democratic-led House.

If the House approves the articles, as expected, the Republican-controlled Senate would hold a trial to decide whether to remove the president from office. A conviction is considered unlikely.

Republicans accused Democrats of embarking on a politically driven mission to oust Trump from office without direct evidence he had abused his power, obstructed Congress or committed other impeachable offenses.

“They’re desperate to have an impeachment vote on this president,” said Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel.

Republicans said there was no proof Trump improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democrat in the 2020 presidential race.

They also argued there was no first-hand evidence Trump withheld $391 million in military aid or a White House meeting to get his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, as well as a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

Trump denies wrongdoing and has called the impeachment probe a hoax.

The proceedings on Monday were disrupted by a man who shouted that Democrats were committing treason and was escorted out of the chamber. Republicans then peppered the hearing with objections, points of order and other parliamentary maneuvers, forcing Nadler to gavel them into silence. “Bang it harder!” Collins retorted defiantly.

Republicans repeatedly called for testimony by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, whose panel led the investigation and held five days of hearings last month. Nadler rejected Republicans’ request to call Schiff as a witness, so Republicans put up a poster with his picture on a milk carton under the word, “Missing.”

The White House has refused to participate in the hearings in the House because it says the process is unfair. Nadler denied Republicans’ request for eight witnesses to appear before the inquiry, saying they were either not necessary for Monday’s hearing or beyond the scope of the inquiry.

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