WASHINGTON (AP) — Speeding toward impeachment, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Sunday he expects a committee vote soon on charges against President Donald Trump that will focus on abuse of power on Ukraine in a bid to get an unfair advantage in U.S. elections and obstruction in the congressional inquiry.
“We’ll bring articles of impeachment presumably before the committee at some point later in the week," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., instructed the committee to write articles of impeachment — formal charges — against Trump for pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic rival. If the committee approves articles by Friday that would set up a final impeachment vote in the days before Christmas.
“There's a sense of urgency, because he will do anything — judging from his past conduct — that he can to get interference and to rig the next election,” Nadler said.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy criticized Democrats for their timeline, which he said was unfairly aimed at preventing the nation's voters from making their own choices in the 2020 election.
“Two-thirds of those Democrats have already voted for impeachment before they heard anything,” said McCarthy, R-Calif. “If they do not impeach him, they cannot beat him at the polls.”
Democrats have been working through the weekend as articles are being drafted and committee members prepare for a hearing Monday to hear evidence from the House Intelligence Committee, which investigated Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Democrats say Trump abused his power in the July 25 phone call when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for a favor in investigating Democrats and engaged in bribery by withholding nearly $400 million in military aide that Ukraine depends on to counter Russian aggression.
“There is overwhelming evidence that the president sought to coerce Ukraine into interfering in our election, essentially sought to cheat in our next election,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the Intelligence Committee chairman.
“That is an ongoing threat to the country, and one that simply can't wait,” said Schiff, D-Calif.
Trump and his aides have made clear that they now see his impeachment in the House as inevitable and have shifted their focus to the Republican-controlled Senate, where Trump allies remain confident Democrats will not have the votes to convict and remove Trump from office. A vote to convict requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, where Republicans hold 53 of 100 seats. It is unlikely that any Republican senators would cross party lines and vote to remove Trump from office.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone informed the Judiciary Committee late Friday that the administration would not be participating in upcoming House hearings. He said the proceedings were “completely baseless.”
“Impeachment Hearing Hoax,” Trump tweeted Sunday.
Nadler, in two television interviews, declined to say ultimately how many articles of impeachment Democrats will present but said they will involve “certainly abuse of power” and likely “obstruction of Congress.” He said final decisions will come after Monday’s hearing following discussions with House leadership and the Democratic caucus.
Nadler pointed to a “pattern” of conduct by Trump in seeking foreign interference in elections but would not commit to including the evidence of obstruction of justice in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation as part of the articles of impeachment.
In his report, Mueller said he could not determine that Trump's campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia in the 2016 election. But Mueller said he could not exonerate Trump of obstructing justice in the probe and left it for Congress to determine.
“The central allegation is that the president put himself above his country several times, that he sought foreign interference in our elections several times, both for 2016 and 2020, that he sought to cover it up all the time,” Nadler said.
“We have a very rock-solid case. I think the case we have if presented to a jury would be a guilty verdict in about three minutes flat," he said.
Trump said over the weekend that his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani wants to take the information gathered from Giuliani's investigations and a recent trip to Ukraine to the U.S. attorney general and to Congress. But a House GOP ally called Giuliani's trip “weird," coming as House investigators review allegations that Giuliani improperly worked on behalf of Trump to pressure Ukraine to pursue investigations into Biden and Biden's son, as well as a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
“It is weird that he's over there,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., describing it as “odd having him over there at this time.”
Schiff said he had “little idea'' what Trump was talking about regarding Giuliani, ”except that the president is only too happy to have his personal attorney continue to seek foreign interference in the next election.''
Nadler spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CNN’s “State of the Union," McCarthy was on Fox News Channel's “Sunday Morning Futures,” Gaetz spoke on ABC's “This Week,” and Schiff appeared on CBS' “Face the Nation.”
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.